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Our All-Vulnerable God

Trauma and Healing

Our All-Vulnerable God
Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Very few of us can actually imagine God suffering. I bet almost half the prayers of the Catholic Church begin with “Almighty God” and when you’re “all mighty,” you don’t suffer! And yet if we believe that Jesus reveals the hidden heart of God, we know that God suffers, too. Jesus is continually drawn to the suffering ones and suffers with them. Our English word “pity” doesn’t do justice to the Hebrew concept of the bowel-shaking empathy Jesus felt for the wounded people who came to him. Clinical psychologist and Episcopal priest Rev. Dr. Sally Howard writes about how God meets us in our trauma:

It is a time to discover new stories about our God, who could not bear to stand apart from our suffering and joined us to live as we might live. . . .

Our God, who poured Herself into the creation of all that exists, is subject to risk, to being fractured and torn, just as we are. . . . The knowledge and experience of God’s solidarity and union with us is profoundly healing and can alter the sequela of trauma so as not to become repetitive and recurrent. God desires closeness to all our experience, naked and raw, in its particularity and commonality. . . .

By providing the safe dwelling place, God defeats the horror in our lives. God catches up our trauma and weaves any horror-filled participation into an unending relationship of beatific intimacy. When we recognize God in our own narrative, there is no wound so deep that God cannot heal. [1]

Also in the latest edition of Oneing, CAC faculty member and dear friend James Finley recounts an experience from his doctoral training, during which he served as an intern on an inpatient alcohol treatment unit for veterans. Upon witnessing a new arrival at the unit accept the challenging truth of his addicted situation, Jim saw in the vulnerable alcoholic an insight about God’s presence, protection, and peace.

In the moment he stood there with tears in his eyes, he was vulnerable and, in his vulnerability, true invincibility was being manifested in the world. Thomas Merton (1915–1968) taught there is that in us that is not subject to the brutalities of our own will. No matter how badly we may have trashed ourselves in patterns of self-destructive behavior, this innermost hidden center of ourselves remains invincibly whole and undiminished because it is that in us that belongs entirely to God.

No matter what anyone has done to us in the past, or is doing to us now, or might do to us in the future, this innermost, hidden center of ourselves remains invincibly established in God as a mysterious Presence, as a life that is at once God’s and our own. It is in being awakened to this innermost center of ourselves with God that we find the courage to continue on in the challenging process of healing, grounded in a peace that is not dependent on the outcome of our efforts because it is the peace of God, which depends on nothing and on which everything depends. [2]

References:
[1] Sally A. Howard, “Secure Dwelling and Positive Meaning in the Face of Trauma,” “Trauma,” Oneing, vol. 9, no. 1 (CAC Publishing: 2021), 25–26, 27.

[2] James Finley, “The Spiritual Dimensions of Healing during Traumatizing Times,” “Trauma,” Oneing, vol. 9, no. 1 (CAC Publishing: 2021), 94.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “God Is All Vulnerable More Than All Mighty,” homily, June 5, 2016.

Story from Our Community:
The books of Richard Rohr and James Finley have been instrumental in my spiritual journey. Through their works, I am able to survive and thrive after trauma and discover the healing blessings of peace and divine love, leading me to a contemplative way of being. I am forever grateful for their contribution to creating sparks and fires of divinity in our hearts. —Adela N.

Image credit: Belinda Rain, Water Drops On Grass (detail), 1972, photograph, California, National Archives.
Image inspiration: Even in and around our sharpest edges the water of life gathers. Soothing, nourishing, healing.
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