(These thoughts were written a few days before the "My Awakening" post, after a deep discussion on the topic of trauma and healing through Christ. I was also writing these thoughts a bit in frustration, and I am not an expert exactly on all of what trauma means, but I do know that at times it feels like an impossible venture for people with trauma to find healing, and it is true that some of them have so much trauma it can't be healed in this life, and those are terrible situations. But I do believe that healing is possible for everyone through Jesus Christ, and that it can even come in this life for most, but my purpose in this post was to get out all the thoughts on my mind and it helped my own walls and misconceptions about mental illness change. I really believe that people who struggle with mental health are working so hard...so very extremely hard, just to stay sane and function. I also feel that the more they need is compassion, and the less they need is extra stress and judgement on how they need to deal with themselves. Be there for them - let them know they can do it - have faith in the Lord and His timing, and take it one day at a time.)
The Atonement is not exactly like a magic wand (well actually, it could be argued that it is, one of my 4 year old's says that it is, and I can absolutely see that argument). What I'm trying to say, though, is that I used to be one of the "instant" and "quick" believers in The-Atonement-Can-Fix-Anything Group of people. And you know what? There is some truth to that, all depending on the WAY you're looking to apply the Atonement. There are MOMENTS where the relief comes instantly in prayer and the peace can stay for a while...all depending on the circumstances.
But for the most part, and especially considering some of the experiences we've faced as a family over the last couple of years, I am now MORE on my nine-year-old son's side with His view of the Atonement. He bore his testimony last week:
"I know that Jesus can do ANYTHING for us...so long as it's necessary."
Everyone in the congregation smiled at his honest little 9-year-old wisdom, but there's no getting around the truth of what he said.
The "so-long-as-it's-necessary" part of his testimony just happens to be the harsh reality of the phrase, "Thy WILL be DONE." It happens to be one of the reasons Christians are left having "fear and trembling" before the Lord in any given circumstance. The Lord CAN fix it, but will He see fit to do so in this moment or is He going to let you learn a lot of lessons along a grueling ride?
That's actually the part of religion that I believe most atheists have an issue with. It seems to me that most people could believe in a God who is loving and kind, but not in a God who would knowingly allow terrible things to happen to good people. "That would be an interesting person and not one I would follow," is what an atheist friend told me. I've pondered his statement and the way I see it is that really there IS a "God of Heaven", and a "God of Earth". The God of Heaven is the one we want to follow, and the God of the Earth right now is the one who wreaks havoc...he's the one who makes this earthly experience feel hellish, and he's the one who tempts us. Someday Jesus Christ is going to come and take his rightful place as the God of this Earth and he's going to heal everyone and everything, but in the mean time, Satan is the one who is guiding everyone astray, and inspiring criminals to keep criminal-ing. So it's my opinion that even atheists agree with Christians if you look at it from that perspective. Satan is a creep, and there's no way I would actually want to follow Him - He's absolutely an interesting person to take pleasure in the sufferings of all the people who come to earth, and I certainly don't want to follow that god either.
But then the juxtoposition is this - and another reason atheists would probably still have an issue with the God of Heaven - why would you want to follow a God who would let you go down to earth and be subjected to the creepy/jerky God - why wouldn't he intervene if He could?
That's where the faith really has to come in, because God - the REAL GOD - the Rightful God did intervene, and He's saving us from the terrible things of this world, but the problem is that HE DOESN'T GRANT INSTANT HEALING FOR EVERYONE OR EVERY PROBLEM RIGHT NOW, so that's what tries faith - because sometimes living in a cruel world leaves a life-long mark on you that you have to deal with.
So anyway, let's talk now about sexual abuse.
Our bodies are pysiologically created to have particular brain mechanisms and responses. Trauma and abuse actually REWIRES the neuorpathways in your brain. Trauma and abuse really can RUIN you. It really can ruin someone's life, and it really can ruin their whole life. Trauma and abuse CAN be overcome, through therapy and consistency. Relying on the Atonement for Spiritual health is ESSENTIAL in overcoming it, but you can't just say, "Oh, well, that's what the Atonement is for," and completely invalidate everything that the victim has been through, and everything that they go through every single day of their life. I also feel that their anxiety and depression cannot entirely be left up to them and how much they did or didn't handle their trial correctly, but that message gets sent a lot to people who struggle with trauma. So they can kindly say - it's terrible having to deal with this kind of "brain damage" caused to me at the hands of another, but thank you very much for passing judgement. I also know that their flashbacks and trauma triggers have nothing to do with themselves and how well they have handled their trauma or how they have not dealt with it appropriately. Let me say that again - THEIR TRAUMA TRIGGERS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. You cannot make a blanket statement like, "Oh, well if they would have just done X, then they would have been strong enough, and you cannot say that , "Well, since they did Y, then that's on their head."
But maybe the whole world needs to look at these issues in a different light.
I'm not saying that victims have no accountability in finding a way to function and heal so they can move on - they have got to find it within themselves to find new habits to overcome their triggers so they can have a functional life. And absolutely they have got to find it within themselves to forgive, but you also cannot expect them to forgive instantly, because you don't know what damage has been done to their body by the trauma they've been through. Maybe they can find it in their heart to forgive, but then the next day someone in the mall walks past them wearing the same scent as their perpetrator, and guess what? Their mind has been triggered, and they are back to the trauma - they are unsafe again, they feel the shame that they didn't cause, they feel bad, they feel scared, they are back in that moment, because that's how our brains were made to function. And so then they have to find it in their heart AGAIN to forgive, because it's like their suffering all just happened anew! Maybe this is what the Lord was talking about in forgiving someone seventy times seven - because when you've been traumatized, what they did to you happens in your brain THAT MANY TIMES, and it's hard, and it's wrong, because their moment of selfishness has ruined your life or at least what your life used to be, and that had nothing to do with you. The fact that your mind takes you there again also means there's nothing wrong with you - your body was made that way, and it TOTALLY STINKS.
When compared to the general population, we know a person who has downsydrome has some "issues" that will never be overcome in this life. Does that have anything to do with how strong that person is or isn't? Does that have anything to do with the Atonement - well yes, the Atonement and Jesus' sacrifice can technically fix downsyndrome, but their healing from downsyndrome in this lifetime has nothing to do with if the individual believes enough or not - the Atonement will actually never fix their Downsyndrome until the Resurrection.
Mental illness needs to be understood with the same non-judgment.
I know that the Atonement can heal trauma and mental illness, but not always completely in this life.
I know that Christ is still the answer, but individuals who have trauma to overcome cannot just call on the name of Jesus and be saved instantly - they have to call on His name daily, sometimes hourly, and on bad days, they have to pray for help every MINUTE, because He can ease the pain, but it comes back. The reason it comes back has nothing to do with the Atonement, it has everything to do with the physiology of the brain. And most times praying won't fix it - years of therapy, sometimes medication, and TIME can help victims overcome.
When Christ comes, I really do feel like the Atonement will feel like a magic wand, but for where we are here and now, the Atonement takes a lot of time, and it's not fair to anyone to just say, "Oh, well, that's what the Atonement is for" in a way, and with a tone that passes a type of judgement on the victim that just makes them feel more worthless and more like crap because of things that they literally cannot control - such as flashbacks and trauma triggers and even damage that has happened inside their brain.
So maybe this is where atheists "GET" something that maybe a large part of the Christian world doesn't seem to understand - there are a lot of things (it would appear) that Christ doesn't actually "FIX" (at least not immediately). This is something that tries the faith of many Christians across the world. There is no immediate magic wand for victims of abuse. That's the true, hard-cold-truth of the tragedy. And then to see the Christian world pass judgement on each other in heartless ways invalidating the tragedy of what's actually happened to that person's body and mind makes belief in a God who is supposed to "fix" everything to be something they can't actually believe in.
Honestly, I don't blame them.
I used to make blanket statements about the Atonement and the way it heals people in a really ignorant fashion, and the ignorance of that person I used to be is something that I literally cannot stand. It makes me sick in a way. I'm grateful I didn't have childhood trauma - I'm extremely fortunate, but people who have not been through trauma need to also open their minds, pull up their sleeves, stop passing judgement, and get to work in a way that helps them understand what life is really about.
Life is not about having your perfect family life with only your biological children who have no problems. There are a lot of problems in the world.
Life is also not about fixing problems immediately and having a quick fix solution to every problem. Some things simply just take time because that is how our bodies are made.
Hopefully I can be a more compassionate or understanding voice in the Christian
world when I proclaim my beliefs in the WAYS the Savior can heal us.