The Suffering in Healing: A Way Finder

a person wearing a backpack standing on a trail

Along the morning walk this Sunday, the streets are quiet. The streets are bare. Not absent of life, but willing the morning sun to take its time rising. My feet hit the pavement hard, then relax into motion, propelling me forward to the ferry terminal. I’ve already driven 30 minutes. Walking is life, transferring from one side of my body to the other, drinking in wandering thoughts, picking at seconds and minutes lodged in memory of the previous three days.

Today, March 1, is the last of six weekends I chose to train in “Narrative Focused Trauma Care” in a group setting. It’s the Sunday of the last of the six weekends—over two years of work. I am subdued, gentle with myself, and moved to tears between my steps.

In the dark of morning, radio blaring, I turn on the heat, allowing myself to be comfortable,my body to be rocked.

I wander.

Yesterday I shared a story from childhood that I read out loud to a group of seven individuals. I practiced controlling emotion. I practiced staying still. I practiced giving just enough clues to my pain to allow some relief without exposing myself. Yet, over the past six weekends and two years, I have become unwilling to simply “practice” the ritual of self-alienation and self-loathing. It may have served for a time as a means of basic survival, but not really. My self-contempt drove me into the ground, buried, left for dead. A zombie of 39-years-old, committed to what? To parenting? To being a wife? It didn’t help me survive. It didn’t help my family come alive, but it sure saved me from engaging deep pain on the outside while it raged on the inside. I was burning alive at the altar of false idols: preserving peace, faithfulness, and living on mission. My hands tremor, protesting.

One clear thought emerges: I don’t want that life anymore. I will not go back.

I notice my arms are cold as I step into the ferry terminal. I am alive. Sundays are spacious enough for my thoughts, uninterrupted by the madness of weekday commuting, the pressures of arriving on time.

Picking my way through my own story and challenged to facilitate others stories, I’ve relied on this de-zombied body with confidence and fear of its’ betrayal. Will I see? Will I feel? But more, will I trust that which I shut down long ago – the goodness of my heart, the wars of the ways my adult choices have continued my cycle of abuse?

In the stories of others I step gently and more confidently to see the hopeless, aloneness, and painful plot twists that bind hearts to shame and abuse.

It’s been a man. It’s been a woman. It’s been someone else who has borne my anger, disgust, rage, and body undone by kindness. Healing is suffering. I’ve suffered levels of truths that I can bear, and I have had to turn from those spoken, revealed truths days later because they expose the ways I am still finding my way towards life. And, although the spirituality I grew up with carried many rituals of harm, I cling to faith in a God who loves and steps into suffering – one who doesn’t run away from pain, but stands on fire with me in the burning traumas of my body.

This is a more faithful pursuit. And, the sacred spaces of shattering the soul knows, the way-finding, is built on the intuition both honed and demonized. I rely less on the ashes speaking and more on them living and marking the pathway of grace and life.

The future is unknown. My plans follow a trail map that goes off the grid. I haven’t traveled this terrain before, so I’ll be trusting my gut, relying on the witness of others, and orienting myself to Jesus. You’ll find me “way-finding.”

The ferry is sailing out of the harbor, Seattle on my left, bright against a varied sky. It’s much like my varied endings and new beginnings. The water shimmers in the reflection of the sun, now emboldened from its slumber. I am the same.

Learn more about our Certificate in Narrative Focused Trauma Care.