Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The post-traumatic condition: fears run wild? Weak willed? Ought to be ashamed of yourself?
Anxiety can become the ground floor of a person who experiences trauma. We know a lot about that condition – well, really not a lot, when you come down to it. Describing feelings after trauma as “acute anxiety” until thirty days have passed and something like flashbacks start in doesn’t really tell us a lot, does it? Not even for insurance purposes or under budget restraints.
What we do know is that soldiers especially – tough guys in general – tend to regard such things as “whimpy,” no “intestinal fortitude,” you know.
I can do you one better. Some religious believers will regard it as insulting – blasphemous, heresy, your pick – to write up the Great Apostle to the Gentiles as starting out with a more than good case of (whisper) PTSD. If you read his story backwards, the man was a saint; read front to back, the saintliness comes
s l o w l y.
The inside joke for that sort of the religious elite is that Jesus had his time, too: the cross. Nobody but slaves and real bad guys were executed like that. Disgusting. Disgraceful. Savior, Ha! Jesus as dying shamefully? I’ll bet Saul after his Damascus experience could be a real "pulpit pounder," well, no. Later he was usually on a street corner rather than in a synagogue, but you get the idea. When he wasn’t being chased out of town or shipwrecked…Paul seems to have glared early, and later glowed, telling the other person, 'and yes, it was foolishness': and then started in on how God is reaching out to us in the lousiest of circumstances.
Paul started out as a Jewish “Saul” and worked his way up and out of that, and then came back identifying with it, if I read that last letter to Timothy correctly. He knew a lot about weakness, his acceptance of it became his strength: through God’s over-all purpose. When he left the Greek capital of Athens he was flat on his face, emotionally, so to speak. Whatever kept circling back and stabbing so painfully, the resolution he shared later with others was that he resolved to face the cross with Jesus on it - as risen and eternal - , which gives us a pretty good idea of what was haunting him year after year. And he won. It was a transformation of Christ, in more than one way.
If you haven’t read the Book of Acts lately, try it next time your knees get a little weak. I have.