Some trauma memories keep us locked into our past. But there is a cleansing that can happen. We need to bring ourselves to the presence of one who will wash us pure.
I didn't know what to do when they were sharing some of the stories of their past. I had known this person for decades, but only now, they were sharing something new, painful, and full of trauma.
It explained why they held certain beliefs, behaved in specific ways, and seemed to be haunted by a ghost of the past.
What could I do to help them with the wafting stench of an old trauma that was once again drowning their present?
You want to go back and stop the trauma, but there is no time machine.
Perhaps a quick prayer and get out of the trauma zone A.S.A.P.
'This person needs professional help,' and a thought of an escape route appears.
The shame of another time
A dominant feature of when you have these terrible memories is the utter shame that you have them. You fear to have them exposed. You don't want anyone to know.
So you hide and try and sort them out yourself.
You feel like you're a 'second class citizen' to God, of being on the outside.
Everyone else is pure, good, and clean. God would love them but not you. Why would God love you with all this trauma? Not good enough.
Memories and traumas can pollute the thinking and stigmatize the soul. They shut down the true self from expressing itself.
In biblical times, and even in many countries today, there were a group of people kept on the outside of society. They were the lepers.
No one was to come near them. They certainly could not come before God. There were holiness requirements needed to be met. Washing, ritual inspection by priests, sacrifices, all required before connection and acceptance.
Jesus was one that was known for connecting deeply with those on the outside of acceptability. This was offensive to some.
He was also pretty harsh to those who felt outward appearance ('I've got my life together') was more important than the inner life.
Blind Pharisees! First cleanse the inside of the cup, and then the whole cup will be clean.
“Woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders! You are like beautiful mausoleums—full of dead men’s bones, and of foulness and corruption. You try to look like saintly men, but underneath those pious robes of yours are hearts besmirched with every sort of hypocrisy and sin. Matthew 23:26-28
In one of the most beautiful stories of Jesus, we find him washing feet. He takes on the role of the lowest servant in a household and washes the feet of his friends.
He got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. John 13:4, 5
Jesus turns the world upside down. His disciples then and now are still in shock.
Sprinkling you clean
We used to have to wash before coming to God (Exodus 30:20), now God washes us.
For here’s what I’m going to do: I’ll pour pure water over you and scrub you clean. I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. Ezekiel 36:25
Those memories, traumas, moments where your life course was transgressed, they can be washed clean.
It won't take the event away, but the washing will clean off the pus and heal the wound.
The expression of a love that is greater than the trauma experienced will overwhelm the pain of the memory.
We learn of something greater than that which has locked us down to the past.
Our feet sense the presence of walking an ancient path of goodness.
Stand at the crossroads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way lies; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
How to be washed
Washing is a matter of ongoing prayerful attentiveness.
As memories come and float into your awareness, capture them.
Invite Christ to come with a bowl of pure, clean, sparkling water. Water that is full of truth and love.
See Christ pour water over your brain that washes through every neural pathway that contains those memories — replacing the pain with his presence.
Ask Christ to debunk the memory of the pain and fill it with an awareness of him.
Repeat this over and over again. Every time a trigger is pulled present yourself to the high priest (Christ) for cleansing.
Traumatic memories don't have to keep you bound to another time. We can ask Christ to wash our thinking with his presence.
Quotes to consider
- Grace is amazing, by disorienting us it properly orients us. Ronald Rolheiser
- Love acts like a giant magnet that pulls out of us, like iron filings, every recorded injury, every scar. Terrence Real
- The key to growing any psychological resource, including compassion, is to have repeated experiences of it that get turned into lasting changes in neural structure or function. Rick Hanson.
- We cannot attain the presence of God. We‘re already totally in the presence of God. What’s absent is awareness Richard Rohr
- Redeemed pain is more impressive than removed pain Phillip Yancey Renovare podcast - Redeemed Pain
- God's healing has more to do with learning to worship than it does with getting life fixed. Craig Barnes
Questions to answer
- What is your immediate internal response to someone sharing pain?
- How would you respond to Christ washing you?
- How are we to grow awareness of Christ with us and his desire to wash our painful memories?