My response to this week’s Challenge for the Welcome to My World question “What does the word WATER make you think of?”. For me, it immediately conjures up the picture of the Victoria Falls cascading over the edge of the rocks and the bridge over the Zambezi River. This is my logo! A lot of water has gone under that bridge, and metaphorically in history too. My blog is one of a series in looking at some of that history that has gone under the bridge than cannot be retrieved like the hymn-writer said “Time, like an ever-flowing stream, bears all its sons away.” Our God, our help in ages past, can redeem that history.
From where I live in Washington DC, it doesn’t take me five minutes out of my front door to be reminded of injustice. So many houses in the street have signboards in their gardens proclaiming words uttered by Martin Luther King Jr and others, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This reminded me of the passage in Revelation 6 where “the souls of those who had been martyred for preaching the Word of God and for being faithful in their witnessing. They called loudly to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge the people of the earth for what they’ve done to us? When will you avenge our blood against those living on the earth?”
I have been studying generational trauma recently, and I have had to reassess how I thought about some of the things I had learned. Most Christians will say one or another version of the Creed, which mentions the “communion of the saints.” My previous understanding was, once a person has died, there are no further prayers required. Some churches will light candles for the dead and say prayers; others honor the dead-on Allhallows, maybe even a pilgrimage to the graveyard. My understanding has been expanded by reading Revelation 8 “the bowls are the prayers of the saints which are delivered to God.” And Hebrews 12:1, where the persons who have died are pictured as a cloud of witnesses encompassing Christians on earth. It appears that the saints who have gone before us are still actively interceding on our behalf for the healing of the nations and individuals.
What caused this shift in how I understood the “communion of the saints?” I had an experience when I lived in the UK that shook me to the core of my being. I was visiting my son one weekend, and he decided we would go and look at one of the National Trust Country Houses. We found the one he had chosen was closed, so we proceeded to another that was nearby. We walked around Petworth House, enjoying the beautiful woodwork and furnishings and the extensive Art collection. We minded our own business; when we arrived at one gallery, the lady at the door stepped up to me and insisted I take a booklet of the paintings’ descriptions. I did not really want to take it, but the lady had singled me out with some urgency, so I dutifully took it and began to page through the painting descriptions. As I turned the pages, one name jumped right out at me, Thomas Wentworth Earl of Strafford!
As I turned the pages, one name jumped right out at me, Thomas Wentworth Earl of Strafford!
His DNA flows in our family history as one of our ancestors. He was beheaded at the Tower of London on 12th May 1641. He was a supporter of Charles I but hated by Parliament, and they wanted him Impeached. Charles I had promised Thomas Wentworth he would protect him from Parliament, but he signed his death warrant. Charles I, which he later regretted. We found the painting, and I was shaking as Thomas looked down at me from the wall. I thanked the lady as I handed her back the booklet and pointed out our ancestor’s painting. We completed the tour of the rest of the House without any further interruption. I must admit to being quite freaked out by the experience. About a week before I left the UK, I was at the Swan Inn in Bedford and as I left the Ladies’ room, facing me at the top of the staircase was another portrait of Thomas Wentworth. It was as if he was saying to me, do not forget.
I still do not fully understand what that was about, but what I have learned about generational trauma is stored in the body’s cells and DNA. This needs to be recognized to be healed. “Trauma constantly confronts us with our fragility and with man’s inhumanity to man but also with our extraordinary resilience,” says Bessel Van Der Kolk, in his seminal work on PSDT and book “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.”
“Silence about trauma also leads to death—the death of the soul.”Bessel van der Kolk
How do we heal from this generational trauma? “Silence about trauma also leads to death—the death of the soul. Silence reinforces the godforsaken isolation of trauma. Being able to say aloud to another human being, “I was raped” or “I was battered by my husband” or “My parents called it discipline, but it was abuse” or “I’m not making it since I got back from Iraq,” is a sign that healing can begin.” (Bessel van der Kolk). Individuals and society need to listen when people are silent or depressed. When you ask them ‘How are you?’ they may well answer, “I am fine.” They may be afraid to speak out as they do not want to disclose what has happened to them and are just holding their lives together.
My thoughts are we should join our prayers for justice to those of the saints around the throne and do what we can to help those who are being unjustly treated, whoever they may be. A few more of Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes to finish with are, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” “I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” May we open our hearts to love to keep the flow of God’s goodness into our hurting and broken world.
“I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”Martin Luther King Jr.
Can we really listen to another’s suffering without judging? Can we respond with compassion and love? We are all affected by the pain that others suffer; even if we do nothing, our taxes will have to pay for rehabilitation or deal with the next wave of violence or war. It is time to educate ourselves and our religious systems that they can harm as well as heal.
A Conference called Church is a Refuge for anyone interested in learning more about Spiritual Abuse is being held in May, check it out, it may give you a greater insight into this problem.
Look out for next week’s blog on Generational Trauma. Subscribe to my blog so that you won’t miss out!