Trauma and Narrative

Recently some of my study has touched on the topic of trauma. A recurring theme has been how an individual can deal with and process it, in particular the importance of narrative in this healing process. There is often a lack of appropriate language to describe a traumatic event, but finding a way to express what has happened is key to gaining a sense of control over it, sharing it with others, and allowing it to become, either implicitly or explicitly, a part of the person’s own biography.

This morning I was reflecting on how we see Jesus assisting people to do this following his crucifixion (and resurrection). In Luke 24 two disciples are discussing and trying to process the events of the preceding days as they walk to Emmaus. Jesus joins them, allows them the opportunity to talk while he listens, and then begins to assist them to try to find a way to explain it by talking through the narrative of the scriptures.

I think too often when something terrible happens we can be in a rush to move on, there is a desire to not think about it and just brush it aside. Jesus didn’t let his disciples do this, when he appeared to the eleven he said, “Look at my hands and my feet”. (Luke 24:39) He wanted them to truly see and acknowledge what had happened. In fact, Jesus tells Thomas to touch and physically encounter what had happened to him, saying “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side.” (John 20:27)

Jesus came alongside his disciples as they processed the trauma of his crucifixion. He helped them to see and understand where the event fit into the narrative, both their own and that of the scriptures. I wonder whether we give ourselves permission to go through this process. And I wonder how we come alongside and support others who might be trying to find the sense and reason amongst the mess.

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