Litany for Trauma

“Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.” (Hab 1:3)

“The grave is greedy and death is never satisfied.” (Hab 2:5)

I was on vacation last week, taking a break from most media, blissfully without cell service. I’ve returned home to learn of yet more incidents in the unending cascade of violence the world is subjected to. To name a few: A terrorist attack in Afghanistan killed upwards of 80 civilians. A suicide bombing in Germany on Sunday, on the heels of a prior attack there which happened on a train on Friday. Another bomb in Iraq. And just this morning, a police officer shot in his home, here in the Austin suburb where I live.

I am baffled. I knew the world was a place where violence is a strong force, a tool for the power-hungry and vengeful. My adulthood began with 9/11, after all. But I feel like I know it more deeply now.

One early morning during our trip to the mountains last week, as I sat out on the deck alone drinking coffee and watching the morning mist rise up out of the mountain hollows, God visited me in a different-than-ordinary way. The best way I can describe it is that it felt as if I were a tiny rowboat gently brushing up against a whale. Calm, peaceful, benevolent.

That moment, that serene and loving Presence, is what I want to hold onto this week. I want to know goodness and mercy. I want to contemplate instead of react. I want the Holy Spirit to give me perspective I can’t get with my own eyes, through the fog of my own instincts for self-protection, retribution, and fuzzy ideas about justice. So I’m praying to be set right in my own mind, informed by the trauma, but not motivated by it.

God of peace and healing:
We have witnessed evil.
We have seen terrified communities.
We have seen innocent civilians hurt and killed in conflicts with which they have little to do.
We have seen people killed in cold blood.
We have seen mass murder.
We grieve with mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sisters, friends.

We cannot unsee these things.
We do not even comprehend the damage done to our souls,
     how numb and scarred our minds become by violence.
We are disheartened by the frequency and magnitude of traumas.
It is a sad day when such evil is commonplace.

In these times
Remind us of your vastness
And the vastness of your creation.

Help us to be creative in utilizing the tools you’ve given:
Mercy, Kindness, Gentleness
Words and gestures of comfort and solidarity.

Help us to be strong in our minds
Able to withstand struggle
Able to retreat into your presence for peace.

Help us to be disciplined in maintaining our connection with you, Giver of Life
Even when the news feels all-consuming and urgent.
Especially then.

We do not know what to do
Except sit with you
And let your nearness transform and heal us.

We long for the day when the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea. (1)


1) Habbakuk 2:14