Trauma and Paradigms

Traumatic events often change the way people think.  We adjust our parameters of social acceptance and allow ourselves a little more or less freedom as a result.  Our abilities to discern what is acceptable become more and more skewed by our discretion or lack thereof as a result of trauma.  Someone is offended on a deep level by someone else.  As a result of the offense, a traumatic event triggers a self-defense mechanism within the offended party that then builds a wall or opens a gate.  We see it all the time.  For example, an abused person will either seek out other people who will continue abuse or they will push everyone else away.  Or a person who has lost a loved one will typically stay away from any deep relationships or they will cling to any and every relationship they can with greater extremity.    Either way they choose a path.

What this indicates is a paradigm shift in the way the affected party responds, from trust to distrust or from caution to recklessness.  What was once considered standard is now called into question.  There is a hardening one way or another.  Either the person will raise a hardened barrier to defend themselves or the person will harden themselves against the world.  Right or wrong, this is nature.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not the created order.  This is an effect of the fall.  It is an effect of the fall in that sin causes trauma and therefore trauma began at the fall.  God made humanity naturally adaptable.  We can adapt in small ways to our environment and in great measure we can invent ways of more or less adaptation.  Case in point: we wear coats in winter.  This is an adaptation to cold.  And there you go.  Adaptation takes place in the soul as well.  You see, we all have a paradigm by which we understand the world.  A set of norms that underlie other truths and that we expect to see and that we consider as true.

For example: we believe in gravity and that gravity will bring us back to earth, therefore we have no fear that jumping will propel us into the upper atmosphere (as cool as that sounds.)


Imagine a traumatic event being like jumping and not being pulled back down by gravity but having to be pulled back down another way.  This would then lead the jumper to think twice about jumping…  they even buy special shoes that prevent them from being propelled into space.  Or they might learn to jump with more freedom risking their lives in insane aerial acrobatics.  Either way, their paradigm for what is acceptable has changed.

Paradigms shift and change constantly, but that is not because of the nature of truth, it is because of the nature of belief.  We believe things based on supposed sets of knowledge that are often unverifiable, we call these supposed sets of knowledge: “theories.”  Now, having set this whole thing up; I want to ask a question (which I am not going to answer) and then tell a story.

Why does the persecuted church respond so amazingly to paradigm shifts?

When I arrived on campus at Baylor University in 2000 I had ambitions of being a doctor, a strong fervor for missions and missional lifestyle, and a love for the Bible as God’s word.  I was a solid young Christian man who was going to make a difference and change the world!  Or at least change the part I was in.  Anyhow, Louie Giglio and his Passion buddies were blowing out college campuses everywhere with messages of God’s sovereign grace and His great love as shown in Jesus Christ.  So, naturally, in a college dorm at a Baptist University where everyone wants to sound smart, discussions erupted as to what sovereignty is, how sovereign God is, predestination, free will, sublapsaranism vs. supralapsarianism, several other ‘isms,’ and so on and so on.  Sometimes these were beneficial discussions, sometimes they weren’t.  For me all these discussions triggered a theological trauma.  The truth is that I loved Jesus, but I didn’t know Him deeply.  Sure, sure, I knew he was stronger than everything and that He loves.  I knew my Bible, or at least I read it more than the average person.  I knew that God was both big and intimate.  But I couldn’t articulate much else other than, “Jesus loves you.“  My world was rocked.  So I did what any good Christian would do, I went to Whataburger, got a burger, then I went to my big brother and said something like, “isn’t this God stuff insane!?  I don’t get it.”  He responded with, “we learn who God is through the Bible.”  He kept talking for a while about spiritual disciplines, but that quote is the only thing that actually stuck with me from that conversation.  For all the statements my brother ever made to me, this one changed my paradigm the most… and it is the most simple. So I dug and dug.  Until that point my paradigm had been developed from my own meandering thoughts about God and what I had learned at camps and Sunday School.  I simply believed that God was the one who made things right and was distant from any disaster, because God is love and love is all flowers and teddy bears and sunshine!  (right.)  But as I dug into the Scripture, who God was began to shift from who I wanted Him to be toward who He says He is.  That was a radical change for me.  We must be careful that we do not make God who we want, but that we believe what He says about Himself.

I think the persecuted church probably understands what I had to learn.  I think it is why they can face sooo much trauma and still be surviving.  They understand that as Christians, our paradigm is based on God and who he says he is, not who we think he is.  And sometimes what we think needs to be changed to fit what is true.  Now that I have left you with all kinds of questions as to what I believe, I’ll end this blog.

Our Great God: Ezekiel 16

It’s been a while since I posted anything… So here ya go interweb:

In my Bible study group thingy that meets at my house on Thursday nights (still not sure what to call this thing we do other than Thursday Night Bible Study), we just started studying Hosea.  A few weeks ago we read Ezekiel 16 for the purpose of cross references with Hosea 1:10-3:1.  I was struck by the graphic depiction of the people whom he loves.

First, verses 3-5 describes Israel as a baby that was unwanted and left in a field to die.   There is nothing intrinsically in the people of God that makes them desirable.  Instead, they are unwanted and left to die.  It actually says the people of God were abhorred!

And God walks by:

When God comes by in verses 6-14 God makes His people beautiful and brings them to life!  In the midst of their depravity and death, God spreads His garment over them, protects them, cloths them, loves them, cleans them, and dresses them up!  Then in verse 14 the people of God become famous because of the beauty that God gives them.  It is remarkable the beauty of the saints as a result of God’s mercy toward them.

Immediately following God’s mercy the people of God begin to trust in their own beauty and begin to sell off the beauty that God had given them.  Verses 15-22 describe a horrific scene.  The people of God begin to make their own gods and begin to worship them… they pay for the privilege of playing the prostitute.  How wicked!  Can you imagine!?  Someone paying to BE the prostitute!?  They take the gold and jewels that God gave them and use them to create images that they can prostitute themselves toward.  They sacrifice the children that they are supposed to raise to “love the LORD their God with all their mind soul and strength” to their false idols.  The sad part is that our culture is no better.  We are prostituting ourselves to consumerism, self-centeredness, pornography, indulgence, license, and immoralities of all kinds.  The people of God give themselves over to false gods.  What’s more, we hand our children off to a entertainment focused consumer driven world, surrendering our responsibilities as parents to the TV, internet, extra-curricular activities, schools, etc… (that list is intended to make us think, not tick us off. Sorry if I accomplished the latter) In sad comparison, we pay for those things too.

In verses 30-34 it just keeps getting worse.  The people of God are pursue unsolicited wickedness!  It’s as if God is saying, “you weren’t even tempted! And yet you chased down sin.”  Worse than a prostitute, the people of God are freely adulterous with strangers.

As you go through the rest of the text, God proclaims that he will judge by giving the people of God over to their own lusts.  (ex. Verse 39) This is the way that God disciplines.  He need not send sever famine or tornados (though He can)…  He simply lets us have our way and we feel the consequences of our actions.   Think about Romans 1, “and God gave them over” is repeated multiple times.  We like to think that we are being oppressed by some outside force, but that is not so.  God is not vindictive or petty.  He is just, and we reap what we sow.  (Gal. 6:7)

As terrible as all this seems, The God of all grace changes the story in verses 59-63.  In our wickedness, God atones for our sin and we are confounded by His great love.  No matter what we have done, Jesus makes His covenant with us and then promises that He will keep the agreement that we have so defiled.  Those last two verses break me in half and I am confounded by the love of God:

” 62 I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, 63 that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.”

I love the LORD