Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Emotional Healing Doesn't Come Overnight

On March 30, according to an article in the NY Daily News as well as other news sources, a 23-year-old man from Milton, MA named Kerby Revelus stabbed his 17-year-old sister Samantha Revelus to death. Then he turned on his 5-year-old sister Bianca (whose birthday cake from her party the day before still sat on the kitchen table) and beheaded Bianca. The third sister, 9-year-old Sarafina, called the police, who shot Kerby and killed him before he could murder Sarafina.

(For you gun control advocates, it's noteworthy that all of this carnage occurred in spite of the fact that Kerby didn't have a gun at the time. When taking everyone's guns away fails to solve the problem of lethal violance, will we start taking people's kitchen knives away from them next? Hopefully, we'll eventually get a clue and start assigning the blame where it really belongs: The darkness of sinful human hearts, which is a problem as old as Cain and Abel.)

Today's RedEye reported another comparable incident, as did this MSNBC article. A 34-year-old father in Lakeland, FL (Troy Ryan Bellar) murdered two of his three sons, as well as his wife, and he tried unsuccessfully to murder his third son (13-year-old Nathan Bellar) before turning his rifle on himself and committing suicide.

In both of these cases, there was one surviving family member who barely escaped death the hands of a family member who murdered numerous other family members. Those survivors will have to live for a very long time with incredibly painful, traumatic memories.

Can Christ heal such painful memories? As a Christian, I have to say that he can, at least to the extent that Sarafina Revelus and Nathan Bellar will eventually be able to live reasonably productive lives, if they choose to do so. But that doesn't mean that such healing is likely to come overnight, or that it will come easily. Nor is it to say that those survivors will ever be completely free from dark memories in this life, barring complete and total amnesia. (And even then, they are likely to be reminded of the past in a variety of ways, such as searching for their own names on the web.)

Sadly, there are pastors and other Christian leaders in this country who, to put it mildly, need a reality check when it comes to incidents such as these, as well as other less extreme incidents which nevertheless are capable of creating issues which cannot be easily or quickly resolved merely by offering flippant, uncompassionate advice to the effect that such people should "get over it" and "move on with their lives". To insist that such people put on a deceptively happy face and pretend that all is well in their lives is to promote the kind of dishonesty which ought to be deemed repugnant by all Christians.

There's no question that Jesus offers emotional healing to such victims, but complete and total healing (sometimes described as "closure") may not come until we are safely in heaven, where such tragic events will be no more. Meanwhile, we Christians need to take our scriptural responsibilities to one another seriously. We need to bear one another's burdens. That includes allowing victims such as Sarafina Revelus and Nathan Bellar to talk about their pain, without judging them, even if listening to them makes us extremely uncomfortable.

That, after all, is what Jesus would do.

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