After leaving MTU today, I just had to walk.
My brain was going a mile-a-minute.
I just finished teaching a seminar on Vicarious Trauma (the cumulative impact of hearing many traumatic events in the lives of the people you help). It is a serious issue for those who work in the Helping Profession.
I also attended the funeral of a deeply loved pastor who was integral in the work MTU started throughout the Zhitomir region.
As I walked through my new city, the place we will call home for at least the first year of our lives in Ukraine,
I was trying to reconcile a part of the training I deliberately skipped over.
I hadn’t plan to skip this part, in fact, I intended to spend some time on this theme. But as I looked out at the teachers, counselors, therapists, nurses, and staff I could not tell them that a sign of Vicarious Trauma was connected to their ability to see the world as a good and safe place for themselves and those they love.
Now, before I get too far down this road, I believe this world is full of amazingly good things and good people and safe families and safe environments.
In the US, our biggest business is pain avoidance. We prescribe, self-medicate, anesthetize and pasteurize our lives from as many problems and as much pain as possible.
At the drop of a hat we start to blame God, country and anything around us when our lives become anything less than ideal. I’m speaking at myself here.
How could I tell these people, who not only see so much suffering, but experience it too, that the world is a good and safe place and you have a serious problem if you think otherwise? They would laugh me out of the room.
I wasn’t ready to talk about this part of Compassion Fatigue (aka, Vicarious Trauma).
I needed to go for a walk and think about all I have been experiencing on this trip to Ukraine.
“God, help me to understand this culture and people. Help me to see the world through their eyes and support them as they work with the most vulnerable in their community.”
After a cup of coffee and some quiet time I had a clear thought. A sign of Vicarious Trauma fatigue is the inability to see the good that is around us and trust people in our lives. It’s a slight change from the “everything’s coming up roses” worldview that is easy to have when you are hiding behind a shit-ton of missiles and medication.
Jesus came announcing the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. The right to rule over sickness, death, sin and darkness had begun it’s reign on earth.
He didn’t stand afar off and point at all that was wrong, Christ came and made wrong things right. He became one of us and took the full weight of all our bad so we could walk in freedom and goodness and life. See Isaiah 53:5.
As helpers, our job is to be like Jesus. To stand in the places where the pain is most severe and cry out for God’s Kingdom to come and when we see healing and wholeness and life and freedom we celebrate it as a sign of God’s Kingdom here on earth.
We must take care of ourselves so we can serve from the overflow of God’s presence and power in our lives.
I had the honor of speaking at MTU’s morning devotions and I shared from Mark 7:31-37 as model of care for those who work in the helps field.
Read the passage and think of Jesus’ actions more like sign language than a mysitcal ritual.
Jesus honors this man by taking him aside. He tells him, through sign language, that he is going to heal his ears and speaking. He looks up to the Father, so the deaf man would know where the healing was coming from.
When it’s all said and done the entire community said, “Jesus does all things well!” Or translate, He does all things completely.
Our work as helpers is usually partial healing: bandaging, counseling, listening, soothing, containing, informing and befriending. But, as Christ followers, we can appeal to His finishing work and say;
“Father in Heaven, make your name great!
Just like it is in Heaven, let it be here on earth; In my life and in the families and people I serve.
Give us this day, everything we need to live lives of freedom in you.
Let us be forgivers, people who give out love and kindness freely and without reservation, as we have been forgiven and loved much.
Papa, let me learn the lessons I need to learn without going through the fires of temptation. Don’t let me be so self-focused that I miss your sweet comfort that guides me in the way of peace.
You take all the glory today and I will bathe in the warmth of I life lived near your heart.