Wrestling with Our Trauma
By Dr. Lauren Richardson
We all come to a moment in our lives when we are faced with the reality of pain and suffering, the reality of trauma. For me, this moment occurred when I was 9 years old. I was waiting at my dance studio, eagerly anticipating my mom picking me up. Our school talent show was that night. I was performing and could hardly contain my excitement. I had spent hours teaching my friend a lyrical piece I had choreographed to The Lion King’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” As I waited, I noticed that my mom was running late, which was something that never happened. My excitement turned to nervousness and soon a family friend showed up. She informed me that my dad had been in a bicycling accident. I don’t remember much that followed that evening, but what I do remember is feeling confused, scared, and sad. I later learned that a vehicle had cut in front of my dad in the bicycle lane, causing him to run into the back of the car, face first. He suffered a concussion, as well as other facial and bodily injuries.
Two distinct memories remain from that time. First, I can clearly recall what my dad’s face looked like the next day when I saw him in the hospital. He had wounds and bruises that were a clear indication of the bodily trauma he had experienced. As a 9-year-old, I did not quite know how to process the appearance of my dad’s face. Second, I also remember looking at the clothes that came home with him in his hospital bag, including the bicycling jersey that he was wearing when he got into the accident. It had been frantically cut off of him in an effort to give him medical treatment in the ambulance. I recall feeling overwhelmed by the awareness of frantic efforts to save my dad’s life. At the age of 9, it was traumatic for me to see my dad so intensely harmed and to be jarringly confronted with the reality of death. I did not realize it at the time, but this trauma was the beginning of my journey in grappling with suffering’s place in my life; particularly in light of my understanding of what it meant to be a child of God.
“Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” Luke 24:39
I have always marveled at the fact that Jesus’s scars remained after his resurrection. Despite conquering death, sin and all evil, Jesus returned to the disciples with wounds on his hands, feet and side. Our all-powerful God chose to keep his battle wounds, and marks of his suffering for us remained. This leads me to wonder, how do we make sense of our own scars? Scars that are visible, or invisible, from traumatic experiences in our life remain, but what do they mean to us? These are big questions with complex answers that space does not allow for here. But one thing I’ve come to realize is that my scars are an indication of God’s love for me, the way God drew me close to him during times of suffering. My dad’s scars remain on his face and to me they represent the strength of our family, built on the foundation of the precious love and grace of Jesus Christ. It’s taken much wrestling and conversation with God to arrive at this place, yet I am grateful for this journey because it has not only strengthened my relationship with Christ but also changed the way that I sit with others who are suffering from trauma. As ministry workers, counselors, and therapists, we must make sense of our own scars and trauma in order to come alongside and support the healing of those who have experienced trauma. So, my encouragement to you is to step into a place of wrestling so that you can know your scars, and what your trauma means to you.