The Trauma of the Cross

Listening to the Passion Narrative on Palm Sunday, I winced at the description of Jesus’ humiliation, torture and death. It is a painful story for anyone, Christian or not to enter into, but perhaps as a trauma survivor it is particularly triggering.

I still find it difficult to watch atrocities on the news, or read the ever more lurid accounts of violence in the tabloids, without feeling a familiar rising sense of panic. An almost physical revulsion, accompanied by intrusive images of my own experiences. Even so, I wasn’t expecting the Good Friday narrative to evoke the same response.

For a moment I was angry. At myself; at my abusers. Angry that the traumas I consider myself well on the road to recovery from can still ‘spoil’ my Sunday morning worship. Then I realised; perhaps we are meant to react that way? To glimpse the reality of the pain and suffering experienced by Jesus. After two thousand plus years of knowing the story, it is easy to become immune to its true impact.

Just as it easy to become immune to the devastation, pain and trauma we see all around us, whether on our TV screens or in our own communities. We numb ourselves to pain, and not just that of others but also both to our own and that which we, however unwittingly, can inflict on others.

As at the crucifixion, we can react in a variety of ways. Like Pilate we can wash our hands and turn away, denying any responsibility. Like many of the disciples, we can slink away, save our own skins and deny all knowledge. We can be Barrabas, going home and breathing a sigh of relief that it wasn’t us, not this time.

We can even become the mob, turning away by turning on the victims and baying for their blood.

There is another way.

We can witness, even while feeling our own anguish and despair. Like those who stayed at the foot of the cross; the Marys, the unnamed women and John. Unlike us they did not have the benefit of hindsight, knowing that Easter Sunday was just around the corner. They witnessed the torture, the darkness and the death. We are told nothing of the emotional impact on them, but we can all too easily imagine.

We can’t stay in that place. We need the hope of resurrection. The Easter Sunday. The post-traumatic growth. But while I find myself immediately wanting to go there and end on that glorious note, I am reminded that this too is a way of turning away and refusing to witness. There is a time to dance, but there is also a time to mourn. There must be, for any true healing to take place.

And as I reflect on this I am blown away yet again by the knowledge that God suffered as we suffer. That when we cry out in our darkest moments; ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ we do so in solidarity with a God who knows how that feels too.

And so instead I end with this quote from Father Richard Rohr;

‘It is precisely at this point that a suffering God and a suffering soul can meet. Only a suffering God can save. Those who have passed across this chasm can – and will – save one another.’

By Kelly Palmer

To read more from Kelly, click here here


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: