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The Fight of Our Lives – The Battle Against Hurt
Article by Larissa Lee
When I talk about trauma, forgiveness, recovery, and all of the things that go along with these, this is not a theoretical or academic discussion for me. I have complex PTSD from repeated exposure to death, and from repeated damage and failure by authority figures – primarily in the church. And as much as my own trauma is a daily battle, I have walked alongside those who have lost marriages, who have broken relationships with children, who have suffered violence and sorrow that I cannot personally identify with. Some people have experienced hurt that exhausts my spirit just trying to imagine it.
Whether in small doses or in a heaviness that we barely survive, trauma comes for us all. On February 17th of this year it came for me when, all at once, I lost my job, my community, my reputation, and the thing I had built my identity around for 5 years. So I also do not write this as one far removed from hurt, confusion, and the daily fight to recover. This is not theory – this is my every-waking-moment right now.
How do we confront this darkness that tries to destroy us? How do we heal from wounds that have no resolution, no remorse, and that can seem to have no end? How do we win the fight of our lives?
I have found that the Kingdom of God is very much upside down from our everyday reality. So when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to forgive over and over and over – it can feel like an impossible task. When Jesus tells us not to worry, not to fear, that death is defeated – it can feel like he doesn’t understand the world we live in. Likely, everything I’m about to say will feel that way too. I get it. It feels that way to me as well but I have seen the alternative path.
I have seen the path of bitterness, resentment, the path that lives encapsulated in the past and afraid of the future. I have seen the regret of family funerals where love was not the last word. I have watched people destroy life-long relationships over politics, religion, and philosophies about how to live. I have seen the wreckage that is the other path and so, as crazy as the Kingdom path seems, it has to be better than that.
The simple truth is this: the Kingdom path to overcoming hurt is to own everything that is mine and to release everything that is not.
What does it mean to own everything that is mine? That means that everything I have control over – my thoughts, my attitude, my emotions, my behaviors, my choices, my response – I am accountable for those things. In every circumstance, what did I contribute to the situation? What did I bring to the table? What could I have done differently? What daily choices am I making that intensify the damage done to me? What is mine to repent of, to reconcile, to change?
And what is not mine? This question is just as important. Other people and their opinions and actions – not mine. Random life circumstances that could not have been foreseen or stopped – not mine. The events of the world outside of my sphere of influence – not mine.
So often, we magnify and worsen the pain in our lives because we try to own all kinds of things outside of our control. We worry about what other people think, what other people say or do, what other people have or don’t have, what we wish could have happened… we carry worlds of trouble that were never ours to contend with.
Equally, we never heal because we don’t own the behaviors that make our lives worse, we don’t forgive, we don’t repent, we don’t change. That is a blunt and painful truth but it is the truth nonetheless. Some of this is on us; some of it is not. Getting those two things right is the whole ball game.
Like I said, this is not philosophical or theoretical to me. I am living this and this is what it is looking like in my life right now:
Every day, I meet with the Father and I tell him what hurts. I cry, I pray, I worship. And I release the hurt to the One who is my healer and who is strong enough to carry it. Carrying that hurt is not mine to own, it’s his. And I have to release it to him many times a day, when a memory gets triggered, when a text message pokes a tender place, when I feel lonely, angry, and frustrated. “Father, I release this to you. I can’t carry it.”
Every day, I sit with the Holy Spirit and I invite him to examine my heart, to prick my conscience, to show me anywhere that I have participated with the enemy to harm myself or others. I ask him to reveal what lies I have believed, what accusations I have agreed with, and what vulnerabilities I’m not aware of. And when he reveals something, I act on it. I try to change it, I seek out conversations and opportunities to apologize. Those things are mine and I try to own them.
Every day, I apply for at least one job. I do the laundry, the dishes, I make the bed, I go for a walk. I try to reach out to a friend. I read. Because these daily responsibilities are mine, and they make my life better. Some days I don’t want to and I have to choose it because I feel worse when I don’t. This is mine to own.
Every time I feel anger or bitterness building, everytime I want to have a conversation in my head about what I wish I would have said to the people who hurt me, I pray for them. I forgive them. I release the fact that I will likely never get an explanation, an apology, or anything else that they owe me. I give them to God who knows the truth, who avenges me, who is the defense of my life, and who is perfect in justice and mercy. He can handle them. And he will.
This week, I am going to try to start making conscious choices about the food that I’m eating, the water that I should be drinking, and other things around my physical health. Because that is mine to own and it impacts my emotions and my spirit. This process is just as much about the physical as it is about the emotional and spiritual. I have to own what is mine and release what is not.
I go to counseling. I read books on whatever is confronting me, whatever I find that I need to grow in, whatever I am curious about. I try to be with people who build me up and speak truth into my life. I try to limit my social media exposure and not comment on posts that make me angry. I try to be consciously grateful for the warm sun, the cool breeze, the taste of bread, the laugh of my child.
Please hear me: I try. There are still days where I am just angry, where I eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and binge watch The Great British Baking Show, where I nap instead of read and where I drink wine instead of water. This is real life. Progress is slow and nonlinear. But, forward is forward and as long as we are alive, forward is the fight.
I don’t know your wounds. It may be that the things done to you were 99% on the other person and they aren’t even sorry. Own your 1% and release the rest. Care for your spirit and your body. Let God care for the rest. This is a fight, a real and literal war with a real and literal enemy bent on destroying you.
Don’t let him win.
We may be broken, bruised, and scarred but we are dearly loved and more powerful than we realize. Healing is possible but it will take work. Own what’s yours, release the rest. This is part of the upside down Kingdom way of living and in it there is life.
Larissa Lee has worked with Youth, Worship, College, and Children’s ministries.