Her trauma seems to have found its way from inside of her and wraps itself tightly around her. It's not the gentle covering of a soft blanket. It's the kind which pierces her deep, causing leaps and jolts at unexpected moments. It's the kind of covering which pierces her to panic when she hears me open the bedroom door in the morning to gently awaken her for the new day. That whips covers hard and jerks her body fiercely when I lightly touch the top of her head and tell her it's time to get ready for school. It's the kind of wicked covering which makes me wonder what ungodly harm had been inflicted upon her so young in life. It is always with her. It is always with us.
We had made progress in being able to show her affection over her first three years in our family. We fought hard, wrestled 'til the fatigue consumed us. And then kept on wrestling. The stiff embrace sometimes softened. Our safe touches sometimes received. Her self-protective walls formed fissures and cracks through which our love could enter. And then...
A year ago, circumstances triggered her trauma and it took us back. Back beyond square one. Back to a place where she'd paste herself against the wall as we tucked her into bed.
"Don't touch me!" she'd command with ferocity. Like her life depended on the isolation to survive. Like we are the source of her trauma. Like letting us near would destroy her.
We've learned that trauma has no timeline. It is ever-present. Sometimes it sits beneath the skin, content to simmer there quietly. But when it is triggered, it fights to survive at whatever cost. And the cost has been high the past ten months. As days turn into years, we have to fight hard to gaze on the "bigger story." And hope that the bigger story which we are co-authoring with our God will somehow keep on releasing love out of us.
On the nights we aren't able to get to our girls' room to tuck them in, we've asked them to seek us out. Tell us Goodnight. I see the war within them to move toward connection. To be asked to move toward us causes one to rage beneath the surface. A rumbling anger oozing toward us. The other obediently comes with a stiff arm extended. A swift touch is all she can handle.
And then two nights ago happened. I sat on the couch writing a blog post. Suddenly she was standing behind me. She bent over me, arms draping mine. My entire body was shockingly present. Aware of life breaking through her broken heart. Aware of the stiff becoming soft. Then her cheek was next to my cheek. And hope washed over me. Gave me grace to keep pursuing her broken heart, hidden deeply away.
Then the unexpected grew more so. She didn't pull away. Her cheek remained, resting against mine. Her warm breath on my face. And then she let her whole being cover me. She stopped resisting... and rested as I was wrapped up in her. Every one of my senses was on high alert. Tasting, feeling, listening, receiving. My daughter enjoyed a few moments of freedom and she lavished me with her affection. I think she "saw" me as I am, not through the tainted lens of her traumatic past. And she drew so near.
Throughout the few days since, I can't help but think about the Garden. And Adam and Eve. And how they related to God so freely and shamelessly. Because they saw Him as He truly is. They allowed Him to satisfy their hungers and thirsts, so His love was able to flow freely through them and back to Him and into one another. Because they saw Him as He is, they were open to Him and His love filled them and covered them.
But then they hungered for the one thing God was protecting them from because He knew it would bring their self-destruction. With one indulgence, their vision of Him became skewed. "They dipped their paintbrush into the cesspool of sin and tarred the face of God," is how one of my favorite authors captures that moment.
And they were full of shame...because they no longer saw Him as He is.
And they hid...because they no longer saw Him as He is.
And He tenderly and graciously covered them and moved toward them. How He ached for them to see Him as He truly is. How He aches for us to see Him as He is. For when we do....we are never the same. One glimpse into His face and we are changed. For His face is love. The kind of love the world can't comprehend. A love that woos us to Him. Patiently. Tenderly. Fiercely. Unconditionally.
I am a weak image of Him. Yet in spite of this reality, it seems like love is entering our daughter's soul, invading spaces which trauma has held captive for so many years. Only this God could open my daughter's eyes to see me as I am and not as who her traumatic experiences destined me to be. She is such a delightful lover when she's living out of who she really is. He allowed me to feel that all throughout my body this past week as she covered me and rested.
Learning to truly love another is the fiercest battle in which I've ever engaged. It is bloody and requires everything I have to give. And then more. But I'm glimpsing that as she and I continue to fight for love, she will not only see me as I am, but we will both see our God as He truly is...and be released to love and be loved as never before.
"Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it--because it does." 1 Cor. 14:1 (The Message Bible)