A Long Road Towards Healing

As a pastor, I hear a lot of stories. Some of these stories are full of life and happiness. Others are full of trauma, grief, and sadness. Like most people, I didn’t really understand trauma and the lasting effects until I started hearing real life stories and started to walk with people through hard things.
One person’s story comes to mind. She was adopted into a loving home, and still carried lots of past pain with her. I used to think things like “why can’t she recognize that she is safe now?” Or “It was so long ago, why hasn’t she been able to get over it?” Now, I can look back on my ignorant self and recognize how much of a fool I was.
Trauma wounds don’t just “heal themselves.” Time doesn’t lead to automatic healing. 
Maybe you, like I once was, are new to understanding how trauma affects an individual. Or, maybe thinking of a traumatic experience is too abstract. Let’s change the image for a moment. Instead of trauma, let's talk about tornados.
This week we recognize the four year anniversary of the tornado that ravaged parts of our community.
As I have heard people share their stories of terror, pain, agony, and loss, one thing has stuck in my mind: the emotional recovery of an event like that may take as long or even longer than the physical rebuilding. Throw a derecho in a few years later and every dark sky has the potential to bring up the memories, to cause sweaty palms and a quicker heartbeat, or to question whether you should grab your shoes and head to the basement for a while.
The damage is so noticeable and apparent when an event like that first happens. As good midwesterners, people start pitching in to clean-up and pull things back together. As much as possible, we try to restore things back to the way they were before the event. Some of that happens quickly. Some things are never quite the same. Some never see full restoration. 
The visual and long-lasting effects of a storm like that leave reminders for anyone who passes by. Even now, many buildings in Marshalltown still have red warning notices or fences around them. Or the reminder of an empty lot where a building once stood. If only it was as easy for wounded people to be vulnerable with their experiences as wearing a red t-shirt that said “I’m still not ok!” 
At this point it would be inappropriate to walk down Main Street and say, “It has been four years already. Can’t they just get this place restored already?” Or, as we have seen in the case of the courthouse, people that are supposed to be a part of the restoration process can actually slow the project down or create more damage that someone else has to come in and undo before restoration can actually happen. (Sorry, too soon?)
Yet, that is often what we say to people, whether verbally or with our thoughts and actions. Things like, “It has been fifteen years since your dad abused you, can’t you just get over it?” Or, “Sure you lost a loved one, but it wasn’t like it was yesterday.” Metaphorically speaking, we are trying to tell people to remove the “red notice” on their life that is saying there is structural damage emotionally or spiritually that needs to be repaired.
Instead, those wounds leave craters in one’s soul bigger than a vacant lot where a building once stood. The work that it takes to bring healing is long, hard, and has to be intentional. But, where does that healing come from? Trained counselors can help. A grace filled friend can help to fill those gaps as well. For anyone wanting to step into the gap with someone with pain and wounds, I encourage you to step cautiously and go with loads of grace.
As a Christian, my theological understanding is that true healing only comes from being set free from this sin soaked world and to be redeemed into the loving arms of Jesus, our Redeemer. That is the safest place to sit in the midst of brokenness and ashes.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah we see this promise of restoration. One of the beautiful word pictures that is given is this idea that beauty will come from the ashes (Isaiah 61.3). 
As a Christian, I do believe that God will restore all things that have been broken and marred by the sin curse. I do believe that every tear will be wiped away and there will be joy and laughter in the house of the Lord. When those things will happen aren’t for us to know. However, everyday I live in light of that promise that every wound will be healed, every building restored to grandeur, and the world will be redeemed once again.
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