The Ugly Underside to Being a String, on a Conveyor Belt, Cruising Toward Eternity

I have for those last couple posts rambled a bit about the fact that in this life, right here and now, sometimes, in a moment, we experience an eternity.  And that eternity is something like heaven.

There is an underside to this.  If a magnifcent moment can stretch upward and outward, so too can a terrible moment.

I teach kids with behavioral challenges.  Nearly all of them have experienced trauma.  This is an area that I have some training and experience in.  I think I have decided that trauma needs a new definition.  That definition is this:

Trauma is when something is experienced as so negative that the experience-er can not escape it.

We all know that sometimes, when things are miserable, time stretches out.  This is part way to trauma, when the experience of a thing feels so much longer than it was.  This is when we begin to know in our bones that Einstien was right: time is relative.  Because those few moments when we knew the car crash was coming…  they lasted an hour.  That first night when we slept alone…  it was longer than a hundred nights.  That time we heard that terrible CRACK!  and knew we had broken something, even though the clock claims that the ambulance only took a few minutes to arrive, in our heart, we know that we lay there, suffering for hours.

This stretching out sucks.  But it is not trauma.  Because we can move past it.

Sometimes, our experience doesn’t just slow.  Sometimes, it stops.

When we are traumatized, there is a part of us that never leaves the traumatic event.  Some part of us is still there.  Even if a part of us is here and now, it is not all of us.  We are robbed of the ability to be fully present.  We are robbed of the ability to be fully joyful.  The work of healing is the work of getting this part of our ownselves back, so that it is not perpetually undergoing that terrible event.

The kids I work with, they try to re-enact their traumas.  Sexually violated kids will act out sexually.  Physically violated kids will enact violence.  Kids inflicted with chaos will want to bring about chaos.  I wonder if a part of this dynamic is rooted in the idea of trying to bring the self to a perverted kind of wholeness.  We want to be entirely in one place, we want to be entirely in one time.  If it is not an option for the whole of us to be in a healthy and safe present, perhaps there is some kind of drive to inflict the rest of ourselves with the same situation that the piece of us has been abondoned to.

And furthermore, these kids have lots of trouble growing past the age they were traumatized at.   Maturity and wisdom ends up being this stunted thing.  They can not progress socially, emotionally, academically when the whole of themselves is not present to grow.  They are held back by that piece of themselves, stuck in eternity.

Stuck in hell.


Trauma is a living hell.  An eternity of suffering.  Not for the whole of a person, but for some part, stuck in the moment, eternally violated, broken, hurt.

Just as heaven in this world does not preclude the possibility of a different sort-of heaven in the next, living in an eternal Hellish moment in this life does not imply that there is not some actual Hell after this life, where the whole soul is subjected to this.  This little glimpse, though, does help me to wrap my brain around what Hell means, and why it is there.  But that is a topic for another day.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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