As I look to companion people of faith through traumatic experiences, I am flooded with questions:
– How does one pray when one cannot even find the words to describe what happened?
– How does one begin to bless and care for the divine image in their body when it has been abused?
– How does God engage in reigniting hope and imagining life can continue on beyond severe loss?
– How do we, as spiritual directors, help people wrestle through shifting perceptions of God and reality brought on by traumatic experiences?
– How do we apply scriptures and disciplines to reconstructing rather than deconstructing people?
– How do we sit in silence and solitude when the noise of hurt is so loud? Ought we to sit in silence and solitude in that place?
– How do we relate to an unchanging God when everything has changed?
These questions, and so many more, are being asked by suffering people and those who love them everyday. As spiritual directors we need to be asking these questions, too, and even more questions, to adequately meet the demands of our times.
Spiritual directors can be an invaluable help to people seeking God in crisis. Yet to approach those who have suffered traumatic losses of any kind as if they are on similar journeys as people in times of peace would be not only unhelpful, it would be unkind. Spiritual direction in the face of trauma must change. Distinct from other disciplines’ outpourings, including therapy from psychology and knowledge from theology, spiritual direction must have a plan for the short, and mid-term, experiences of survivors, prepared to take on embodied practices and to provide structure and hope. It is the answers to these questions that we are seeking in the spiritual direction program at ICTG. Next month I will share some of the answers that I have found helpful in my search for both lay spiritual directors and clergy to come alongside those who are hurting and be, paraphrasing St. John of the Cross, a voice calling from the unknown saying, “Come this way, I have made it, the path is safe despite the darkness.”