Exhale: From Trauma to Transformation

My toes curled into the sand as the waves hit my calves. The icy feeling rushing over me wasn’t just the cold water – it was the trauma that took place the last time we were here. And, yet we were back again determined to make new memories to replace where all our nightmares began.

Last year, during a camping trip, Chris woke me in the middle of the night with ashen skin and wild eyes. Convinced it was a heart attack, I dragged my 38-year-old husband to the truck. I tucked our kids into the back seat and raced over 100 miles an hour to the nearest hospital. His heart went into V-Tach racing over 300 beats a minute. The ER team did everything they could to slow his heart until there was nothing left but to shock his heart back into a normal rhythm.

Thus began a year’s worth of revolving doors at various hospitals and trauma to my own heart and soul. I replayed the seconds between witnessing his heart being shocked and waiting for his heart to show any signs of life.

Worry whirred through my soul like the wings of a hummingbird: How’s his heart this evening? It’s beating too fast – from here, the hospital is 8 minutes away. Is Pauline busy? I may need her to watch the kids. What happens if he doesn’t make it? What happens if God calls him home? Where’s the life insurance policy? How do I do life without him?

This was my reality for a year until four weeks ago. Chris underwent surgery for a defibrillator/ pacemaker. I didn’t realize the weight of this year of uncertainty until it was lifted from my shoulders. It’s both glorious and frustrating because healing from trauma is no easy task.

Why is healing from trauma so difficult? Traumatic events are those experiences that are perceived to be threats to our safety or stability and cause physical, emotional and psychological stress or harm.

Trauma presents a unique version of suffering – the kind that overwhelms any soul to cope. The memory from a trauma wound is so deep that it may never heal. Trauma happens in the past but declares itself in the present, taking us captive.

Trauma hits all of us in some way because we live in this fallen world – whether it’s something in the news like terrorist attacks, disasters, or more personal, like abuse or even the death of a loved one.

Trauma happens to all of us but it’s our reaction that matters. We can either re-live that moment of fear or we can move forward. We must be willing to fight for our healing. We must be willing to unlearn. To unravel what was and learn what is. The battle is fought one breath, one minute, one day trip to the beach, one camping trip, and one moment at a time with Jesus at our side. In fact, he’s familiar with the anxiety, fear and pain of trauma. He faced it when he faced the cross. He’s promised to be there for us in our time of need and he’s promised to heal us.

Our stories don’t have to end with the trauma we’ve suffered; we have a chance to begin again. We have everything we need to exhale and move forward.

The setting sun refracted light off the water like thousands of broken mirrors. There I stood and took in the view, including the angry pink of Chris’ surgery scar, and I felt a gentle leaning into my soul. It was God and he was whispering. “It’s okay Heather. You do not have to be afraid anymore. It’s okay to let go. I’ve got this moment. I’ve got him and I have you.”

Then I caught my husband’s eyes. We both smiled and breathed deeply.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

This piece originally appeared on Elisa Morgan’s Blog.

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