This is trauma. The week began like any other week. That is when trauma decided to make its uninvited way into the serenity of my life. Tuesday afternoon…4:35pm. My youngest son Baylon calls, “Dad, Nana has fallen and mom is calling 911, you gotta come home now!” As soon as I hung up and began to make my way to the car, I knew the events of my life for this week would drastically change. Trauma has a way of doing that.
As I arrived home, the ambulance was about to carry my mom to the Emergency Room at the local hospital here in Concord, NC. My youngest son Baylon had come in from school and found her lying on the floor of our home in a pool of blood, contorted and broken from her fall. She had come up to give him a piano lesson. That piece of trauma will likely leave its mark on him for the rest of his life. My wife called 911. I cleaned up the blood and then made my way to the ER. One fractured pelvis, potentially fractured hip, shattered shoulder, and one emergency shoulder replacement surgery later, she still lies in the hospital waiting to be shipped off to rehab before the supposed Winter Storm hits. An inch or two to the left or right, could have left her dead. Thankfully, the blood was from her arm and not her head.
In the meantime, my wife’s father had disappeared and no one could find him. When they finally checked on him, they found him on his knees at his bedside. No one could determine how long he had been there. Possible stroke, possible heart attack, definite urinary tract infection, confusion. He remains isolated to the ER with no visitors, as the hospital in Roanoke, VA is on lockdown due to COVID.
So this is trauma. Uninvited, unwelcome, disturbing, painful, unnerving, always jarring, and never harmonious with the rhythms of your desired pattern of life. There will always be harder stories of trauma than ours, and there will always be easier stories of trauma. No one needs to apologize for the severity or lack of severity of their own trauma. Trauma is part of our story, and our stories are given to us for a reason. Sure, God may not have intended for us to face certain parts of our trauma. Yes, some of our trauma is self-induced. But much of it is not. Either way, God will not waste our trauma. It will inevitably become part of our story, and that will make us better. Of this I am absolutely sure, even as unpleasant as it is when we’re going through it.
I know this because of verses and promises in the Bible like John 16:33:“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, for I have overcome the world.” Notice, Jesus said, “will have trouble,” not “might have trouble.” Yes, the reality is that I will experience trauma and difficulty. Some of that may not be pleasant. But in the midst of that, I will be reminded that I hold in my possession what is always God’s best, even when I don’t understand it all. And the world can never take that from me or overcome it.
I know this because of passages like James 1:2-4:“…when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. Let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, not lacking anything.”
This means that trauma reintroduces me to a better definition of joy. One deeper than I could even imagine myself. It introduces me to a joy that is not built on external circumstances. It helps me see that before I can truly define loss and pain, I must first be able to define goodness and true joy, and from where and Who that comes. The reality is that I cannot get there by way of comfort, or a life void of pain. This helps me see that the circumstances of my life can be absolutely perfect and fulfilling in my own eyes, and yet my story still be incomplete, and lacking what is necessary in the eyes of the One Who is ultimately writing my story, and has written it from beginning to end. It reminds me that I don’t get to control the outcomes and that mine is to trust, even when it makes no sense. This is the faith I have built my life upon. What other option do I have? As Simon Peter stated in John 6:68, “Lord, where else can we go? No one but you…” I’ve tried some of the others. They never satisfy long-term.
The world is not safe. It never will be fully safe. It is filled with trauma. For followers of Jesus, this world is not our ultimate home. It was never meant to be our ultimate home. Strangely, we live in a world desperately trying to insulate itself from the possibility of harm and trauma. I’m certainly not saying we go looking for it, or that we don’t use the common sense God gave us, or exercise personal responsibility. But I am suggesting that if we seek so desperately to insulate ourselves from every trouble, we will also deprive ourselves of the beautiful redemption that our fractures can display. That beauty is what allows us to cast aside our worries and fears.
The only down side to the advancements of our modern science and medicine is that they have a way of elevating the idea that somehow medicine is going to solve the problem of trauma, suffering, and death, as if it can be fixed. No amount of medical advancement will ever solve these, because they are part of the natural course of life and eternity. They are not to be fixed. Like it or not, they give life its substance and meaning. As Scripture says in Ecclesiastes, “To everything, there is a season.”
Sure, no one wants to die before their time, and thankfully, God has taken pleasure in using modern medicine to have its place in the cycle of life and in our stories. But in the fear of trauma and death, we invite many other less notable deaths into our lives. Death of dreams, death of marriages and families, death of hopes, abilities, death to our spirituality and faith, death to community and relationship, death to commitment and fight, and death to the promise of something greater. Strangely, the life spent trying to avoid trauma and death inevitably causes us to live life less abundantly and fully. That death is far greater than the ultimate death we’re trying to avoid. For the believer, death is that which leads to ultimate life in glory. Again, this world is not our home.
The truth is that when things are trusted and left to God, trauma and pain don’t subtract from our story, they add to it. Jesus said in John 10:10, “…I come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.” Don’t forget that this is the same guy who had the greatest post-traumatic story ever. Death to resurrection, to eternal glory. Trauma was not the end of His story, it was only the beginning. And all who put their trust in Him are part of the same story.
I’ve spent hours in the ER and the hospital this week at my mom’s side. Hours on the road back and forth, and hours waiting and praying. I suppose I could focus on the 96 hours of trauma poured into my story this week by the brokenness of the world in which we live. I could let that drive me to a worldly response, let it tear me down, or drive me to something that would give me temporary satisfaction.
The other choice is that I could let that trauma remind me that in spite of this broken world in which we live, I’ve spent most of my fifty years with that woman I call “mom” in blessing after blessing. And I’ll be reminded once again that even though I may have been surrounded by trauma all week, the loudest voice is and always has been that in this life, I’ve gotten way more blessing than I ever deserved. This is trauma.