"We have to wonder: What would it do to a child to go up on a mountain with his father, ostensibly to offer sacrifice, and for the father to end up holding a knife to the child's neck? What kind of a child leaves with Abraham that morning, and what kind of a child does Abraham bring back to Sarah?
The only thing more disruptive to a physically or sexually abused child than the abuse itself, in my experience, is the threat of it. In fact, anticipating the next occasion of abuse cuts deep grooves in a child's psyche that, like St. Josephine Bakhita's tattoos (see yesterday's post), may never go away.
Did Isaac spend the rest of his life afraid to trust?
"Life traumatizes all of us," Heather King writes. It even traumatized Mary, Jesus' mother, writes Dawn Eden in chapter two of My Peace I Give You, which I began to write about yesterday. "Here is a woman who, during her Son's Passion, endured the most intense emotional trauma any human being could undergo and survive.... she was able to remain standing by the Cross, pouring out her heart for her Son as he poured out his own Heart for the world...."
"Mary's response to pain," Eden writes—her steadfastness—"is a model for those of us who seek purification of memory." At the foot of the Cross and then again when she learned that Jesus had indeed risen, she must have recalled every moment of her child's life, every word she had heard him utter, because she had been "pondering them in her heart" all his life (see Luke 2:19 and 2:51). "Keeping Jesus' words in her heart enabled her to move forward even when she could not yet see how the present trauma would resolve," says Eden. Her "fortutide came not from forgetting her past suffering, but from remembering it in a new way."
What is this "new way" for someone like me? Like you?
It is faith in the same person in whom Mary had faith. It is pondering in our hearts all the events and words of Jesus life, right alongside all the things that make little sense to us, the things that hurt. It is believing those words "regardless of how I may feel at any given moment."
It is, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI that I quoted yesterday, "the great hope."