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Speaking to the Soul: Shell-Shocked

Speaking to the Soul: Shell-Shocked

Week of 6 Easter, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:97-120 (morning) // 68:1-20 (evening)

Leviticus 26:27-42

Ephesians 1:1-10

Matthew 22:41-46

Today’s first reading predicts the lasting effects of battle trauma on God’s people. We might recognize some of these symptoms as what was once called “shell shock,” or what was later called “combat stress reaction,” or what is now labeled “post-traumatic stress disorder.” The portrait of God in this passage is filled with fury, threatening devastation if people persist in their disobedience and hostility.

For those who survive violence and deportation by enemies considered to be agents of God’s punishing wrath, the symptoms will be these: They will overreact to any small sounds, and when something as ordinary as the rustling of leaves triggers their fear, they’ll panic and run; they’ll trip all over themselves and each other as if they’re running from a gun.

As the Scripture puts it, “the sound of a driven leaf shall put them to flight, and they shall flee as one flees from the sword, and they shall fall though no one pursues. They shall stumble over one another, as if to escape a sword, though no one pursues.”  In other words, there will be nothing to fear in the moment, but the memory of past trauma will live in their bones and their instincts, perhaps forever.

Many people carry within us the trauma we’ve experienced at the hands of an angry God or of other human beings. Menaced by this image of God, perhaps even experiencing violence and expulsion as God’s presence and action, the instincts to fear and to flee “God” and his armies can be switched on at any moment. Through our own prayers and relationships, I hope that we can process this trauma ourselves and accompany others who live with it today.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.


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Ann Fontaine

Rita Nakashima Brock does trauma recovery work with people who have served in the military and suffering from PTSD.


Shirley O'Shea

How does God help us to process trauma? Human beings certainly cannot be relied upon to stand by us in it.

Lora Walsh

I think that for many people God can’t help process trauma because “God” (or perceptions and experiences of God) are the source of the trauma. I know several people like this, and I hope to accompany them.

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