Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ashes Transformed

This book, subtitled Healing from Trauma, by therapist and Christian healer Tilda Norberg is a blessing, whether your damage has come from large-scale public horror like the destruction of the World Trade Center or is from the personal pain of childhood neglect or abuse. Here are some of her comments:

“Genuine healing from trauma involves every part of us: body, emotions and spirit. Opening the cyst of emotions and memories requires willingness to revisit the trauma as many times as needed. Allowing ourselves to go back and relive what previously was too frightening and overwhelming is hard work. However, we can take it in small doses; the cyst can drain slowly. The trauma needn’t overwhelm us again. We can go back in time and experience some of our feelings and physical reactions and return to the present when we want.

“When emotional and physical release can occur in the context of recognizing God’s faithful, healing presence, the process tends to be much easier and faster. For this reason a spiritual director can greatly enhance the healing process as well. The knowledge that your loving God is with you can enable you to face the monsters inside. . . . Willingness to invite Jesus to accompany you to the scene of your living nightmare can open the door to marvelous healing that enlarges and reframes old memories to include the presence of the Lord.

“I know that painful experiences, no matter how catastrophic, can be healed through a combination of inner work and prayer. . . . God works to bring you to the particular wholeness God wills for you.

“God can turn our worst pain into the source of our giftedness.

“Theologians have long tried to figure out why a loving God would allow terrible things to happen. They reason that the gift of free will allows humans the freedom to make disastrous and cruel choices. Or that God created good physical laws to insure that the world is dependable, but these laws sometimes hurt people who inadvertently get in the way. Or that evil exists, and the world is imperfect because of it. Or that evil wins some battles, but the ultimate victory is God’s. All of these explanations are true, yet none really answers the ‘why?’ question with finality, and in the end, most conclude that trying to explain why God allows suffering is an impossible task. Humans are simply too limited to fully understand, and the answer lies in the mystery of God’s being.

“Wanting to know why is natural. Demanding to know why can delay healing for years, even decades. . . can be tantamount to staying stuck in the crisis.

“I believe God wants to answer your most troubling questions, not with the airtight, logical discourse you may want but in a way that satisfies your heart. Understanding will probably come gradually as you keep the questions open, letting them gently simmer on the back burner. . . An important part of your healing journey will be to discover your own heart’s answer to ‘why?’ When you ask the Holy Spirit to teach you heart answers, that prayer invites healing grace.

“First, you can surrender to God your idea of how your healing must happen. When you surrender as best you can, you create space for what God might want to do. . . reframe your question to ask ‘what?’ or ‘how?’ instead of ‘why?’ . . . What is God doing now? How am I being healed? How is the Holy Spirit inviting me to grow during this time? . . prayerful exploration of ‘what?’ often gives shape to God’s response to your ‘why?’ . . Sometimes it is possible to hold the question ‘why?’ much more loosely because your healing becomes more important than insisting on an answer to the question.

“The basis of faith imagination is the belief that God sincerely wants to communicate with you and tries to get through your defenses in order to bring you wholeness. . . invite God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit . . . to work through your imagination so that you can better perceive and cooperate with God’s healing work in you. . . Faith-imagination prayer that specifically invites Jesus into the hurtful memories of trauma can invite a flood of healing grace.

“In your imagination pay attention to Jesus’ reaction to the situation, trusting your perceptions for the time being and expressing whatever you feel. You might let yourself cry or speak aloud words of anger.

“Faith imagination does not require you to see pictures in your mind, although you might. . . You might sense Jesus wiping away your tears or leading you out of that room. . . Faith imagination does not attempt to reason what Jesus would probably do. Instead it invites the participant to an unpredictable encounter with the living God.

“The perceptions that emerge during faith imagination create a ‘healing icon’ of God’s work in you, one you can return to again and again until you assimilate its message. . . healing icons can begin to overshadow the horrific images and perceptions created by the terrible experience.

“I believe that God wants to pour grace on you as you open your heart and mind to Love itself. . . God wants to heal you in some way (though not necessarily in the way you have in mind) and to lead you toward your own particular wholeness. God wants to show you personally how you can best love others and serve the world.

“If you don’t know what matter to bring to God for healing, ask the Holy Spirit to surface in your mind and heart whatever God wants to heal in you now. . . . Remember, emotional and spiritual growth is a lifelong process, sometimes difficult but always wonderfully rich and nuanced.”

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