Confronted daily with the harsh reality of the epidemic of sexual abuse, and violence all around, including in Christian cultures, one of my prayers is that I will not become calloused, cynical, or ‘untouchable’ at a heart level. I pray that God will give me a tender heart, that has the capacity to feel for others, while still remaining strong enough to not be overwhelmed or destroyed by pain.
People need to know that we have compassion, but they also need to know that we are not destroyed by their pain, when they share. I try never to react strongly, and never overreact, when confronted with shocking stories. This gives the individual permission to ‘tell all’ and be free, without my emotional responses or reactions.
A victim’s greatest fear, when telling their story, is, “I am too much. My story is too much. No one can handle it. No one can handle me.” That is the last ‘lie’ I want to affirm by my body language, gasps or other ‘horror’ reactions.
But I don’t want to learn how to react to such a degree that I bury all of the emotions that are inevitably touched through people. I fear that could harden my heart.
So sometimes when I debrief with Tim about an abuse case, or the tragic aftermath, I get emotional. Sometimes I cry. Even when I work on writing my book, telling my own story, there are times I cry, even though I’ve worked through it. Tears are good. It doesn’t mean I’m ‘falling apart’, or I’m not coping emotionally or psychologically.
It means I am human and I still have the capacity to feel pain and trauma. When I am faced with the extreme–the things that shock me to the core–I try to find time with God because I trust Him with my emotions, my anger, my grief and my tears.
Last week was one of break through and miracles. But it was also a week of feeling and absorbing more than I usually do, for many reasons. One of the reasons was the conflict between the thrill of seeing miracles of healing in some, and hearing the tragedy of another’s struggle. Another was seeing close up the life and death struggle this becomes at times for people.
Early in the week I spoke on the phone with a woman I had never met, a 41 hour drive away. (That’s assuming I would travel at the speed limit.) And that equates to over 4000 kms. She is going through extreme trauma because of things that happened in her childhood, and ongoing family dynamics that resulted from that. She reached out because she’s struggling to find meaning and purpose through the struggle, even though her life is filled with purpose.
Almost the same distance from this woman, another individual who has suffered recent trauma struggles with finding purpose and hope. Religion–not the good kind–has loaded with guilt, over things they did not choose. Again it has become a life and death struggle. A fight to survive, literally.
Closer to home I met with another woman, old enough to be my mother, and then a bit. A sweet conservative Christian. Her story spilled out. Pain, after pain, after pain. And through that pain shone faith. Solid faith.
In each situation my goal is to really hear their stories, their hearts. Every individual needs to know that their story has value, that they have something to offer not only in spite of the bad things, but even because of the bad things that happened. God redeems and allows people to change the world because of bad things that have happened. But most of all my goal is to help every individual discover their worth, their value, their purpose in the eyes of God, as we work through their experiences.
One of the things I strongly encourage is to simply release the tears that have been trapped, often since childhood, or since some traumatic event. But don’t stay there, learn to worship God with your tears. Don’t just cry. Cry out to God. Cry on His shoulder, His chest. Listen to His heartbeat in that place of trauma and grief, and you will hear that it beats for you.
Then ask Him to take your pain, to suffer with you, to hold you. Be like King David. Rant if you must. Rage if it makes you feel better. But always remember that God is on your side. He is your friend, not your enemy. He does not cause or create these painful experiences. Sin does that. The sin others choose when they victimize you.
See God as He is, and you will see yourself differently. You will see value, purpose, beauty and hope. You will see yourself as having value.
Share your pain and tears with Him, in worship and trust, and you will be transformed through His love. You will see things differently, little by little. He will unravel the lies of life experience and show you things as you have never seen them before.
This week I spoke with one individual who struggles with suicidal thoughts. I was connected a few days later, through an online friend, with another woman who struggles. We hear it in the news all the time, but that contact makes it personal.
There is a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, a lot of disappointment in our Christian communities, just like the rest of the world. We cannot turn a blind eye and claim to be the body of Christ. Jesus Christ has eyes. To be His body, we have to see, hear, feel and touch.
And to work in this pain effectively, my heart must remain tender and not become calloused. And that also requires feeling. So I choose to feel. I choose to grieve. To be touched by pain.
I will continue to weep shamelessly for our churches, our communities, our nation, and the nations around. I will continue to weep for you, if this is your story. So when you see me cry, I’m not ‘losing it’. I’m not overwhelmed. I’m simply trusting God to carry what I cannot. I will worship God with my tears.
© Trudy Metzger
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