Waves of grief.

Plus: Your church's need to become trauma-informed.

Hello, my friend.

How are you today?

Me? Honestly, most days, I’m doing fine. I’m coping with leftover trauma, which presents as a mental illness. I’ve accepted it and I’m even able to live with a huge measure of happiness and motivation.

Then come the bad days. The flashbacks remind me of all the things my suicide attempt nearly stole from me. Sometimes, it’s the wounds I’ve received from the church. On other days, it’s the pain I’ve caused other people.

On those days, I find myself wanting to sob.

Waves of Grief

Can you relate?

Grief is a peculiar thing. It comes in waves, but in between those waves, the waters can be perfectly still. In fact, they can be so still that you convince yourself you’re OK. 

Then the next one arises, and you’re gasping for breath.

In moments like these, I cling to verses like Psalm 34:18 - “God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (NIV)

Hagar (Egyptian slave of Sarah and Abraham) knew something about trauma. Here’s a snippet from my upcoming book, Hiding in the Pews: Shining Light on Mental Illness in the Church, which publishes July 20th from Fortress Press…

Through Hagar’s Eyes

Close your eyes. Do you see her there? Bruised. Bleeding. Dying for something to drink. So hot that her tears evaporate in seconds. She’s been abandoned by the only kind of family she had, which was no kind of family at all. Not just abandoned, but first betrayed and abused. She’s running: out of wind and out of hope.

Hagar collapses into the dust with a thud. Through the blowing sands, she sees a figure. Could it be a mirage? Oh, God, has Sarah sent men to retrieve me?!

Suddenly, the wind stops and a voice pierces through the loneliness of that desert: “Hagar, slave-girl of Sarah, where have you come from and where are you going?”

Nervously, Hagar tries to clear her throat, but she is so parched she nearly cries out from the pain. Eventually, she responds, “I am running away from my mistress, Sarah.”

Notice, she doesn’t name a place. Hagar doesn’t say she is fleeing a certain city or town. She’s running from a person. How many of us have ever fled from the abuse or neglect of a person?

The heart of Hagar’s response, “I am running away from my mistress,” reminds me of a tweet I saw in July 2019 (I bet you didn’t see that one coming). One of my Twitter friends posted, “I just want to feel safe for once.” My heart sank because I know the way my stomach pitches any time I don’t have a sense of physical or psychological safety.

For most women, and for many other marginalized groups, feeling unsafe is a familiar and common state of being. If you’ve never feared for your life or physical well-being, you may have never had to consider your own personal sense of safety. Lucky you. That is a privilege I hope you’re forever grateful for, from this moment forward. 

Why? Because—in spite of the fact that everyone has the right to feel safe: in our homes, at our places of business, in our churches, and inside our own skin—many of us filling the pews don’t feel safe at all.

Hiding in the Pews

I pray this book plays a huge role in highlighting the church’s desperate need to become trauma-informed.

And if you’ve experienced personal trauma, this is my prayer for you today:

God, I pray for this friend of mine. Surround them with Your comforting Presence. Remind them again that You are for them and You are close beside them. Let them feel You wrapping Your arms around them. And give them the courage to ask for help and go to therapy. Amen.

Holding you in the Light,

Steve

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