Amazing, isn’t it, how the body simultaneously works to forget trauma while keeping an irrevocable memory of it? How a person can go for long periods of time with no feelings attached to the mental recollection of the pain, but with just the right trigger be brought back fully into that moment when the world as they knew it, changed – no matter how much time has passed?
Do I consider myself healed? Yes, I do. I have stories of the healing process; the milestones I marked along the way; the fact that I don’t think about it every single day, and that even when I do, there are, more often than not, no tears. Yet, the recent sight of a woman in a similar position to where I was years ago, reaching down to touch her protruding stomach now devoid of a kicking, moving baby, and finding only softness and lots of give, brought me right back there 28 years after that was my story.
I knew exactly what she felt as she touched her stomach. I knew how her heart hurt in a way that only the finger of God can touch, and that would take years to heal. I knew the deep loss that racked her body and her soul. I felt the pain that ran through her, the incomprehension, the loss of hope. In that moment I was her, and I wondered how that could be the case.
How was it that I remembered so vividly?
God has healed me, but my body remembers. A lot moved inside me as I watched her, and I knew it was up to me to go deeper with God in it. With the tears falling down my face, I got to ask the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth, ‘Why bring this up now at this moment in time?‘
As I’m typing I can feel the revulsion I felt at the softness of my stomach with no baby to show for it. Time stopped, but it moved on. Friends didn’t know what to say, or they said the wrong things. One woman audaciously tried to use my vulnerability to re-position herself in my life. The medication I was taking to convince my breasts there was no baby to feed, made me stuffy, unable to breathe. Nightly my tears fell as the steam rose up from the bowl of hot water steeped with eucalyptus oil, having the counter-effect of making it even more difficult to breathe. It was all very humiliating.
All of this, and more, rushed back to my memory as I watched that woman reach for her stomach in an involuntary movement. I saw the ‘almost’ imperceptible give in what had only hours before been a hard baby container. Yes, I remember it all; more than I want to. And I wonder, ‘Why is this so real to my emotional memory as if it only happened last week? How is it that in spite of the full life I’ve lived since then, this remains, and is as much a part of me as the fact that I have curly hair?‘
I am learning that the things that break us are the things that make us most humble. They provide a venue for God to work in us, to bring healing, and to show us that part of Himself that we don’t know we need until brokenness is all we know. We take His hand in the darkness and hold on to it for dear life because He doesn’t try to avoid us. He doesn’t run away from that broken place where you find yourself; instead He settles in for the long haul with you. He comforts you, soothes you, hears you out; and then bit by bit He brings you back out into the light. He is strong for us when we are weak.
How would we know about that side of Him if all of life consisted only of light and laughter?
This past week as my thoughts have gone so deep, I’ve come upon an answer I needed but had put away: ‘Why did I have to go through that?‘
I went through it to be humbled.
I went through it to learn more about God’ character.
I went through it to get a grasp of how hopeful the idea of heaven really is.
I went through it to get a ‘thorn in my side’ that would always remind me of how fully human I am.
I went through it so that I can comfort someone going through the same thing.
I went through it to become a better person.
This list makes me want to go back in time and scream at Adam and Eve, ‘NO! Don’t do it! Don’t eat that fruit! You’re going to mess it up for all of us!‘, but I can’t do that. Instead this is what I do: keep pressing forward.
So, when we are triggered, let’s remember that we have come too far to turn back now; that there is work for us to do that springs exactly from theses places of pain and healing, from our brokenness and loss. Then, the hardest thing we have ever experienced, the emotional memory of which we carry in our bodies, becomes a comfort that we can share. We have been there, and with God’s help, we survived and thrived. Our brokenness and healing can be compared to the purpose of gifts of the Holy Spirit: they aren’t meant for you alone, they are for the building up of others, not to be kept to yourself.