Soul-making – carrying the wounds


Caravaggio – The incredulity of Thomas 

In an earlier post I looked at Jennifer, who felt she had lost her soul because of her traumatic childhood. Therapy with Donald Kalsched, and the developing trust in that relationship began to restore her soul, and her sense of her real self.

An extract from ‘St Francis and the Sow’ by Galway Kinnell fits here:

The bud

stands for all things,

even those that don’t flower,

for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;

though sometimes it is necessary

to reteach a thing its loveliness,

to put a hand on its brow

of the flower

and retell it in words and in touch

it is lovely

until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.

But and this is the painful part, for all who have been traumatised, the experience may be modified, but the trauma does not go. It can be integrated and so managed, but what happened remains in some form, some trace, some body memory, some dreams and at times of stress some nightmares. This too though has to be part of our soul-making.

The theologian Shelly Rambo writes about ‘resurrected wounds’, and the scenes where Jesus appears to the disciples in the Upper Room. From John 20: ‘Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you”. After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.’

In showing his wounds, Jesus, ‘is instructing the disciples in the way of wounds’. He ‘takes them on a journey that requires a different way of seeing’. The description with Thomas is equally extraordinary: Jesus ‘said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’

These resurrection narratives offer testimonies to life beyond trauma, and the ever-remaining wounds. Christianity and the church often want to erase the wounds with a quick leap into Easter Sunday and all the associated triumphalism. Yet the risen Christ owns the wounds of the traumatic crucifixion – they are still present and visible on his body, and are part of the soul of the resurrected Christ. Shelly Rambo writes how the very wounds offer a conception of life and the soul that though marked by the wounds is also recreated through them.

And, in the Upper Room, Jesus breathes on the disciples offering new spirit-filled air, and so the  souls of the disciples crushed by the terrible events that have happened to them, are reanimated. This soul-making means that even the ghastly, cruel events are made sacred, and there is the potential and indeed promise of life beyond trauma.