It takes a long time to recover from trauma. If it is one incident, it can take from one to two years I was told by someone working with emergency response teams here in the ACT. Extended trauma may take longer.
Joseph, the subject of our sermon last Sunday. had a long time to recover. Twentytwo years is the calculation of the time between when he was sold into slavery by his brothers at age 17 and when he reunited with his father.
And yet his forgiveness of his brothers and reconciliation with his family was not a foregone conclusion. After all he had experienced it could have gone another way.
Thinking more sympathetically about his brothers, too, about the way they were passed over by their father and the hurt they felt and the resentment this caused, healing and restoration also had to occur for them.
There are just a few hints in the the Joseph saga about how this process took place for him (and hopefully also for his brothers). At key points in his story (when he sold to Potiphar 39:2; when he is put into prison 39:23; and when he is put in charge of Egypt 41:38) we are told that the Lord is with him. I particularly like what Pharaoh says, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
Perhaps this is an indication to us as well, that rather than travel along a path of bitterness, the way to healing is to be mindful of God’s presence with us – that God never leaves us or forsakes us – and to focus on the signs of God’s Spirit living within us and working through us.
I came across a prayer by Carol Penner, a Mennonite pastor, who produces a wonderful site of prayer resources https://carolpenner.typepad.com/ which I found very helpful – both in its honesty about the time involved in the healing process and the presence of God in it. As we prepare to hear this Sunday about the reconciliation in Joseph’s family, perhaps it is good to think about the way Joseph and God were interacting in the intervening years.
Bitterness, like some evil intravenous
drips into each day
from a clear bag of memories.
He said, she said,
he did, she did,
he was, she was.
Daily, nightly, a steady dose
poisoning the soul.
Too many times the body convulses
shaken with anger
racked with sorrow
clenched with hatred.
Memory is a shackle
that foils the mind’s best intentions;
“Today I won’t remember.”
“I’ll just stop thinking about this.”
“I refuse to give this power in my life.”
And still the steady drip drip,
the same old symptoms.
Healer of our every ill,
where is your relief?
Time, like God’s gentle nurse,
lays a hand on the mind’s anguish
and inoculates us with grace.
Memories, still clear,
lose their power
as the body builds immunity,
year by year.
We cannot change the past
but peace arrives in time.
May the grace and peace of God be with you.