Saturday, October 1, 2011

One long surprise: the biography of this saint began like a flashbulb – of exploding assumptions

The realization creating both blog and book, is that Saul of Tarsus had a flashback as he neared Damascus. The affirmation the man was a saint certainly didn’t begin that way. Now I realize that if you don’t start with his biography as an unfolding process a person can surely come up with a lot of unexamined assumptions.

“Dumbfounded,” is not a poor description of what I felt when I realized I was reading about a person having a post-traumatic experience, not a mystical one or a conversion. When dumbfounded gave way to elation about this insight, if pride was involved it would not long go without a fall. 

There was that first manuscript. I shared it with a respected and much admired churchperson. He handed me back about a two sentence review. A short two sentences. Ah, the emotional life of an author. 

Then there was that midnight caller. My sleepy eyes shot wide open as I stared into the open mouthed rattlesnake. I was thirteen again and in the tunnel of a cave; I had denied my feelings all these years. Surprise, Bob! As a pastoral counselor I had been sitting at a desk talking with someone with PTSD, and now I knew: I had been sitting on both sides of it
Then, about a year ago, there came a jolt – my son who loves research came up with a blog on Paul and Post-Traumatic Stress written by a “biblical counselor.” I had assumed I was going on my own unique way (who cannot identify that happening?). Then, again a surprise, but now a welcome one; if a person googles or goes on yahoo, there are a number such items. The range of them is interesting: from biblical counseling, to a Quaker seminary site, to a Jehovah Witness’s blog. Really, it should be no surprise. There are lots of students of the Bible and recently a lot of counselors familiar with PTSD. Voila. In the time of a knowledge explosion, there are no ideas that are solitary possessions. The difference – at the moment – is that the other pieces focus on identifying isolated verses as indicative of the post-traumatic, while Annelie’s and my book is more biographical and intended to be used in discussion groups.

What I would never have guessed is the response to the blog from beyond this country. We have hits now from over thirty countries. Macedonia was heard from this week, the Ukraine had numerous hits, as did again a recent arrival, France. Surprisingly, we have gotten nothing from Japan; with their recent disasters I thought we would be hearing from them; we did from New Zealand after their tragic earthquake.

The moral of all this is, of course, that our earth really is a little blue marble floating in space; we live in a life boat. So let us all reach out to one another, reach in, discover new perspectives, explore the unexamined assumptions.


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