He was always one with a story. He had spent most of his career treating Vietnam Veterans with PTSD and doing research with this group. He said, with his soft voice and subtle southern accent, “Did I ever tell you ‘bout the time I was pick’in up leaves out by the pooool?” He always had great stories, so I was surprised I had not heard this one, but I hadn’t.
“No,” I replied.
“I was sitt’in out by the pool with my wife and I started picking up leaves–one at a time. I would get up, pick up a leaf, and bring it to where I was sit’n. Then I’d sit for a few minutes and do it again, and again. I did this about ten times. My wife said to me, “What the hell are you doing?” “I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I said to her without hesitation in a voice deep with sadness, “I’m picking up wounded and broken soldiers.” Then he offered a bit of advice, “You make sure you take care of yourself with this work.”
I guess I know why God does not give up on humans. He doesn’t give up on humanity because of people like my dedicated professor, and like my friend, colleague, and EMDR therapist, Gwen who looks out for me, and because of the wounded, tortured souls that do not give up on themselves.
I suppose God doesn’t give up on humans because of the victims, who despite their unanswered prayers for salvation still love God. Or perhaps they may hate God, and I think God understands. Robert Bly explains this struggle when he quotes from ancient wisdom in his book titled Little Book on the Shadow. He says, “If one loves and worships God he may come to an understanding of Him in twenty or thirty years, but if he hates God he can do the same work in two years.” Not all of the people I have treated love God, as you might imagine, and perhaps rightfully so. Some hate God because they feel so abandoned by Him and everyone else for that matter, as they endured a life of torment completely alone and betrayed. (In my secular practice we rarely discuss God but with some people they insist God be part of the work.)
Even after their abuse has long since ended the torment continues. Even with the perpetrator long since dead or jailed, the torment continues. Even with the war long since over, the veteran remains tormented by the memories.
I hate having to ask these people to relive their horror. Believe me; I think they have endured enough. I wish there was another way, but I know of no other way. I would never invite them to take this journey if I wasn’t sure it would transform them and bring them peace. I know it’s the best shot they have.