Yesterday my wife Deb forwarded me Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation email. He was reflecting on Moses asking God to “show his glory” (Exodus 33:18), and how God responded in an unusual way: “I shall place you in the cleft of the rock and shield you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I shall take my hand away, and you will see my backside, but my face will not be seen” (33:22–23).
Rohr then brings his own experience of prostate cancer into the light of this passage:
My best spiritual knowing almost always occurs after the fact, in the remembering—not seen “until God has passed by.” I realized that in the moments of diagnosis, doctor’s warnings, waiting, delays, and the surgery itself, I was as fragile, scared, and insecure as anybody would be. If I could stay with the full narrative all the way into and through, only afterward could I invariably see, trust, and enjoy the wonderful works of God.
… It is largely after the fact that faith is formed—and gloriously transmuted into hope for the future. Only after the fact can you see that you were being held and led during the fact. During the fact, you do not enjoy or trust your own strength at all, in fact, quite the opposite. You just cry out in various ways. Then God, for some wonderful reason, is able to fill the gap.
This rings true in my life. But then I got to thinking about all we are learning now about trauma. Trauma is held in the body, and it actually keeps people stuck in the past. Whenever the trauma is triggered, the body believes it is actually still experiencing the traumatic event.
It seems to me, then, that trauma can block spiritual transformation, because it doesn’t allow a person to look back on an experience. The traumatized don’t have an “after the fact” unless their trauma is processed and healed, because they’re living in an eternal “now” of being hurt.
Heal the trauma and then you can look back on the event and see how God was holding you the whole time. If you don’t heal the trauma, you’re stuck in the confusion and fear of “during the event.”