It’s Resilience Week for Virginia. And collaborative community I’m involved with, Greater Williamsburg Trauma-Informed Community Network (GWTICN), has organized some incredible events around the theme of trauma and resilience. GWTICN has also connected with local organizations hosting events for the week. Find some that spark your interest and get involved.
I’m one of those pastors who gets labelled a bunch of stuff, even by those I love. I’m told I’m too political, come off ‘edgy’ and ‘ social justice-y,’ etc. Whatever I may seem to be, I can tell you what I am not. I am not a pastor who believes the Scriptures ought to be tossed around just to win arguments or make myself feel better about what I want to believe (even though I would like to treat them that way). I can tell you what I am. I am a pastor who believes that if you are going to make such claims, about anyone, then let Jesus and the Scriptures have a voice in that conversation.
So I want to say this for posterity’s sake: to my bros and sis,’ let’s read the Scriptures and pay close attention to what they testify about Jesus. Let’s read them beyond devotionals and proof texts here and there. Let’s sit with them. Let’s receive them. Let’s wrestle with them. And please, let’s do so in community, not just alone and in private. If we aren’t actively sitting with the Scriptures and as a community discerning the world they are inviting us to be part of in our cities and neighborhoods, then please, in the name of all that is good and holy, let’s stop talking about them.
It doesn’t matter how many times we go to Church, or how we serve the Church on Sundays, or whether or not we grew up in one. If we are not following Jesus, like actually obeying what he does and says, and discerning what this looks like together, then we are just making noise. We are fans, not followers. And chances are, we are not giving Jesus a fair shot with others because we are either domesticating him, White-washing him, Americanizing him, or spiritualizing him as if he only cares about the afterlife.
Let’s get back to Jesus as Lord and King, not just Savior. And let’s have discussions with our Bibles open.
This morning I am reminded that the mystery and wonder of the eternal God of love declares some truths that can be known and some that must simply be accepted and claimed. One of the divine mysteries that can be known, but must be accepted and claimed, is that long before you were born you existed in God’s heart and were loved. Before anyone else loved you, admired you, or believed in you, God did. God sees you with the eyes of infinite love as possessing unfathomable beauty and holding eternal value.
The voices that come from this land of broken promises, with all its fear, violence and hate, would have us believe differently. Sadly, sometimes these voices have come from pulpits that speak of God. Yet, in all this, there is something that speaks to us from depths of our inner being and stirs within us a lingering hunger for what is true, good and beautiful. That something, I believe, is the voice of the God who knows us best and loves us most. That something, I believe, is the voice of eternal Love.
Accept and claim the mystery of God’s love revealed in God the Son.
Traumatic stress is an emotional wounding that results from experiencing or witnessing a traumagenic event or events. A traumagenic event is a highly stressful, horrifying event, or series of events, where one feels a lack of control, powerlessness, and threat of injury or death. As Dr. Peter Levine says, “Traumatic stress occurs when our ability to respond to threat is overwhelmed.”
When Black brothers and sisters are killed at the hands of the police, no matter the situation surrounding it, it carries with it the potential of a trauma-producing event for any of our Black brothers and sisters. The event is never isolated, but is associated with the ongoing legacy and aftermath tied to the historical harms and narrative of devaluing, dehumanizing, and disposing Black and Brown neighbors, which is tied to the larger narrative White superiority. Therefore, my dear White brother or sister, our “But if he…” and “What about…” doesn’t matter because the reality of the trauma is much larger than the hypothetical.
So consider choosing empathy and listening, rather than a commentary based upon the hypothetical. Consider facilitating presence rather than a comeback-opinion. Consider taking the most human approach and understand the trauma. And if we follow Jesus, just be like him for God’s sake, and let’s choose to love our neighbor like we love ourselves and treating others as we would be treated if we were suffering trauma.
The reality of the trauma will always be bigger than the hypothetical.