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Tracing Trauma

A GLIDE Memorial Church Pandemic Re-Reading of Mark 5: 1–20

This re-opening, for those who experienced the world as having been closed, is triggering all kinds of latent, hidden, passive, raw, unattended, sublimated and subconscious trauma. Everybody has a hair pin. Everybody a missile in a silo. Everybody got everybody else launch code. Everybody firing. Feels like everybody ready to come to blows. Everything coming up now. Bubbling. Breaking the surface.


Our witness can be there when the mother collapses after news of her son being shot, the father taking back to the bottle after being laid off, the ventilator and the untouched, the ventilator and the unspoken, the ventilator and the struggling breath, the heart offering itself as confection to anybody, after the last one broke it. The heart is not taffy. It is brittle. We can be there when it breaks.


Or we can use our sacred texts to prepare our people for their subconscious rising, by pointing to a bible that also has experienced its own trauma. Has hidden from itself what it has done to itself. Katrina is what Noah changed his name to after watching his people drown and was helpless to do anything. Katrina don’t know why she storms out every time somebody gets too close.


Even got me thinking about why I, at 55, let things go untreated, unpaid, and unchecked. Why I think a cry for help might be met with a physical, systemic, professional, emotional or intimate belt — belts, but let’s call them “feels,” and be up in them, and soften the blows of years of believing we are the reason for what happened to us and the reason who happened to us and why it look and sound like and walk like a duck, but that quacking, you’re being convinced, is in your head.


You tend to the flock still.


Let’s call ourselves undisciplined, then disorganized, then stupid, then silly, flaky, then worthless, then unlovable, but never between 8 to 55, stop to think about having learned not to make a peep. To cry without sound. To look away, disassociate and disembody, to not say anything when someone is hurting you or you are hurting yourself in the same way that you did the first time somebody asked you, after you got the instructions, the math problem, the directions wrong, “Are you stupid?” And you looked at your soul and said, “Yes.”


And now here we are on Facebook, in our offices, at the gym, in our cars, on the hamster wheel, and still can’t say molestation, abandonment, alcoholism, religious violence, intellectual violence, academic violence, shame, blame or secrecy. But let’s convince ourselves that our phones, lap- and desktops keep the trauma in proportion to the size of our electronic devices and not to the actual size of the generations of snowballing that have passed that pain down.


And let’s have emojis and GIFs that express our rage, our dumbfoundedness, our helplessness and hopelessness in the face of manmade climate change, nuclear war, militarization of police, inadequate or elimination of healthcare, gentrification, walls and border patrols. And let’s definitely not have language to give to the racist, patriarchal, homophobic, misogynist, ageist, anti-artist bullshit that makes everybody, black or not, scratch and pat their scalp in disbelief.


“Is this really happening?”


“Is this really happening to me?”


I believe dominant culture, white supremacy, patriarchy and empire expects us to come undone when we discover that we are survivors of pandemics. Where is the recovery for folks who are locked in addiction cycles of pandemics? How do we revisit our sexual, domestic, academic, creative abuses? How do we look at the toxic masculinities, toxic femininities, toxic queerness’s, toxic creatives, and toxic families, that were forced to work and raise us in the residue of their toxic paychecks and toxic on-the-job treatments, if they had jobs.


So, I’m reading Mark Chapter 5 through a lens of Trauma, as I am coming to understand it.


And while yes, Mark Chapter 5 points us to three Miracles, I wonder if we overlook the causes of the conditions from which these three people were healed? Can we think that Jesus is not just pimple cream that we dab on the spot of the bump, but The One who has come to address the condition, the historical, the systemic, the dysfunctional family systems, the enabling, the shame, blame and secrecy, that every person who shows up in the bible needing healing is not just healed of “the thing,” but is healed of the generational curse?


Can we absolve the three recipients of a crime that they did not commit or at least admit to the mitigating circumstances, the impact of the amount of love or lovelessness in their childhoods? And can we hold them as they have held their families’ secrets, which now they have made their own? What must have happened to them? They just didn’t “go crazy” one day, start bleeding one day, decide to play dead one day.


What would you have had to overcome to allow yourself to make a run for a man, like so many other men, to whom you knew you were powerless to? If you had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but found a strength to break free from them, and you were in a cycle of incarceration and freedom, incarceration and freedom, what could you do?


Why are you every Night among the dead howling and bruising yourself? When did this start? Why does help look like your tormentors? If every one of your disappointments and hurts and pains had a name, what would they be? Why do we bargain with our trauma as if it has our best interest at heart? When we are delivered or healed and left in the same spot of our hurt, how do we maintain our freedom?


If you have known that no one would believe you, how will you tell the news of your healing and your healer? What happened to that little girl? Did no one notice her absences from school? Her withdrawn look? Her sexual precariousness and precociousness?


When people tell you to give up on the lives of those who are bottoming out, tell you they are dead to you, how do you hold on to hope? And what if you were taught that your own health was not important?


What if you were taught to live with your pain? To be long suffering? What if the doctor’s told you that it was in your head, and wouldn’t under your current health care plan, order the tests to prove otherwise?


What if you took your healing into your own hands, got healed, got caught, and the person from whom you got healed instilled fear and trembling in you, triggered you? Yes, you are healed but still triggered? And what made that little girl learn to lie there and play dead until someone safe came along?


Yes, we count the miracles as three in Chapter 5, but that they survived, having endured all kinds of abuses, misdiagnoses, ostracization, exile, patriarchy, inadequate healthcare, abuse that led to dissociation and detachment, that is the miracle. That the bible, yet once again, tells on itself, I wonder if there are other miracles that we miss, or overlook. Or if we can expand the meaning of the miraculous.


As we read Mark Chapter 5, let us think about how was the Christ uniquely prepared to speak to the unclean? How was the Christ, or would the Christ beseen as, unclean? And of Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV, how was the Christ, or would the Christ be, prepared to know about grace, disease and bloodborne pathogens? The Bloodborne Christ? And of death, especially of those who had to hollow out ourselves to endure the atrocities that crept and slept on us, how was the Christ uniquely, or would be uniquely, prepared to attend to the dying and the dead? What could the Christ know about coming back and knowing nothing has changed, but still, you have to keep coming back, and sometimes stay? How can we read the bible in such a way that it doesn’t just make us stop hurting, but free the pain calcifying and fossilizing in our bones and bodies so that we can love in miraculous ways?