Looking at our neighbors’ “Woundedness”

Scott Erickson (@scottthepainter),a Visual Curator for Spiritual Thought, just wrote a beautiful reflection on “Woundedness” in the Stations of the Resurrection series he has created. This reflection is Station 6 of the series. Many of my friends will know Scott Erickson from his Honest Advent work. I have several of his drawings framed in my living room from that series contemplating the vulnerability of the incarnation. They are stunning and inspire a renewed spiritual imagination from the stories in scripture many of us are possibly so familiar with we no longer know what they mean anymore. Or, dare to believe we can experience and believe differently about them in light of our lived experience.

After I read his post on “Woundedness,” which I will include in this blog post for you to read for yourselves because it is too good to summarize, I knew I had to write my own reflection or I would not be able to sleep tonight. There is a stirring within me that needs to be aired to my online community and in-person community. It is not for revenge or for pity; it is for healing. And this reflection gave me the spiritual imagination to tell my own story in such a way I will not be too triggered by sharing, or fall into the trap of over sharing details that are not for everybody. That is so easy to do for trauma survivors. It is because our trauma came from those who had no boundaries.

This post is also inspired by what has happened to a 16-year-old black high school junior, Ralph Yarl, who just survived being shot because he went to the wrong address to pick up his siblings. I am not comparing our events as one and the same, but they are cut from the same cloth: the devastation that happens when you have no idea you landed in the hands of hate. And you were just trying to do what you were asked to do. The wrong people, the wrong location—these circumstances can change your life forever, for good or for worse.

I am not going to go into great detail on what happened to my family online. This is not the place for that and is largely what caused the problem in the first place. What I am going to do is attempt to reveal enough to show that when a powerful system harms you, there will be a scar(s) from that wounding—even after you are resurrected and living a life surrounded by those who love you the most now. My aim is to show you my wounds like Jesus did for his disciples. I like how Scott Erickson states that the resurrection is not he same thing as perfection, because perfection means without blemish. Jesus, too, had a scar from his brutal wounds inflicted by empire violence, even after his resurrection. Jesus was not the same after trauma. Ralph Yarl will never be the same. The Bruehls will never be the same.

One thing all three people/situations have in common: all were and are innocent but punished in some way anyway. It is because the system that guides our shared life together is corrupt. It does not mind when the innocent die—not all deaths are physical. The system is too busy protecting itself to care about the people who are dying at its’ hands because it does not want to die or look bad in public. Our inability to be wrong is also a pandemic! It is a systemic problem, too. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but a spade is a spade.

Here is a quick summary about my family.

This Easter, the whole weekend, was especially brutal for my family. A reminder of the worlds we once were an integral part of resurfaced. The event that changed our lives forever, which happened almost a year ago and took away one of our greatest passions, came to a head on Easter weekend this year. (I can write about how this is also a blessing, but not in this post). I do not look forward to May 3, 2023. That is the date our lives changed forever in 2022. I am quite certain it will be a dark day for me remembering the travesty, cruelty and abandonment that happened that day.

I want you to hear this and take it to heart. What we went through was brutal, and it is time to take the wounds we cannot see seriously. The black community has been asking us to do this for a very long time. They have been and are watching people from their own community die or brutally tortured at an astronomical rate at the hands of hate. And we still have political and faith leaders acting so atrociously by resisting our need to study racism and teach a more complete American history account in school. Also the resistance to Black Lives Matters is so revealing. Our political leaders are also preventing our ability to make any meaningful systemic change politically. That is also violence—even if they are not the one shooting the gun, hanging someone on a cross, or making the false accusation. Our stories are not complete if there are things we cannot talk about that are also part of the story. Hiding human evil done systematically does not prevent future systemic evil from happening; it guarantees it will happen again. And our systems allow it by design hoping to live another day by not being able to name it communally.

I was also unable to enter a church on Easter. I have never done that before, and I both grieve and do not regret it. I had to give up everything post-seminary because of what happened last May to my family. I still need some time to process this loss. I finally had one friend reach out and name what this cost me. I needed someone to see me and what it cost me too. I was probably too tired to move on to what I was going to do anyway, but this wounding has set me back quite a bit. I do not know how long this healing will take for me. I am a highly sensitive person and I see the fatal flaw in the system, so it is especially hard for me watching the system continue on as it were with no recourse.

Right now, I am looking for my people to address the fatal flaw in the system with me in a way that heals. Many are quoting Audre Lorde with Ralph Yarl’s case: The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. I know this is true. I will not use the same systems that brutalized my family to attempt to carry out justice on our behalf. That will only end up in more trauma for more people, just like it did in our case. This is not what God or anyone in my family wants.

The thing is, I saw the system. I not only saw it, but also experienced it. It does not care about the individuals it is supposedly set up to be taking care of; in reality, it cares about itself. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” logic Aristotle promoted is being used in a way that promotes terror instead of unity. I studied this in seminary too, before this travesty happened. This is not an unknown phenomenon by anyone who understands systems. There is also no one in any of our systems looking at/for the deeper root(s) to learn and understand the actual problems we are facing. Everything is done in reaction instead of being proactive. There is no funding or staffing being provided as a resource to make this a possibility either. So we punish, because that is easier than having hard conversations and admitting things are not black and white. But it is NOT more cost effective—I have data on that truth. We just really do not care who gets hurt as a community. We would rather trivialize or spiritualize than admit what we are doing is not only devastating individual lives but also the lives of whole communities. You never take out one person without affecting the whole community.

I know this pain is hard to look at and hard to hear. There are so few places we allow for public grief and lament. We are not used to this. Death has always been an exception to us culturally—not a reality. It makes us feel what we have been taught not to feel—pain. We were supposed to bypass pain—not go through it.

We need to look at the pain, or we cannot get to the healing or true joy. I believe this is why Jesus showed his scars. What we do to each other leaves a mark. We can survive it, and heal, but the scars will remain.

I hear people of faith quote this verse a lot: and He himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin (Sin) and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). Can Ralph Yarl and the Bruehl family, and everyone else who bears scars, seen and unseen, say the same thing?

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