Monday, March 21, 2011
Flashbacks are the beginning, not the end, of a life story
Yesterday morning my wife, Annelie, was in church thanking the congregation for the overflowing way in which they responded to a need of homeless students in the public school system. She had to arrive early because it was a third Sunday in the month and persons in the congregation provide the meal at the Rescue Mission. If things run true to form, about Thursday we will also drop off some oranges at an after school program for kids in the West Central Neighborhood.
I share this because it is an object lesson in give-back time. Annelie was one of lucky ones that made it out of a bomb shelter on that last day of long running horror. Then she became one of those German kids who received a hot lunch thanks to the Quakers – and the American army that prepared and delivered it to schools. Post traumatic stress has its own way of doing things, but so does spirituality: and I am willing to bet that this form of maturity has, and will have, a longer human history than flashbacks.
In an area of Japan that wall of water will be re-lived by some for a life time. So will persons in the Sudan have reasons for overwhelming emotions up-starting on again and again. We can all name countries in which disasters have come with crushing similarities to a vulnerable part of the brain. We shake our heads as we think of the consequences as they take on such combinations as rage, alienation, and withdrawal. The sensations are personal, but the consequences are interpersonal.
We do have a role model for working through and beyond these, a man who had seen too much blood splattered, too much violence – and who seems to have done his share. When it all exploded in him he collapsed, even was blinded by it. In his youth he was called Saul, in older life we know him as the Apostle Paul. He experienced the rage, the alienation, the withdrawal of the post traumatic if you read the story - and I hope you will. The scales dropped from his eyes and he came to honor the man whom he had persecuted as sent by God to reach into all parts of our self absorbed world.
If you celebrate this man as a role model, you may have suffered from trauma, but when you think of other sufferers, you will want to affirm in your heart of hearts, “My Brother,” “My Sister.” And act on it. Graciously. Responsibly. Respectfully. It is the way of loving yourself, even as you are loving others.