First thing you may ask is What?? and then, perhaps, Why??
The story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, death, burial and resurrection can be difficult for many people, but none more so than the victims of abuse or neglect, or for anyone especially affected by violence. We want to be sensitive to the special needs of those that have endured trauma, but still remain truthful to the gospel. So, what is a parent, children’s minister, or pastor to do around Easter? It’s a tough situation.
If you are like me, you’ve looked for materials that are faithful to the story but don’t push too many buttons (sometimes referred to as “triggers” for those with special emotional needs). Perhaps you are left unsatisfied, as I often am, by the choice presented between something accurate but insensitive (maybe it screams SIN, GUILT, and BLOOD?) or a resource that is syrupy sweet but doesn’t deal with the very REAL desire of everyone to know there is hope and release from guilt and shame (I like bunnies and flowers, but they can’t repair my relationship with God and others)! Thus, at risk of straying too far for you to one of these two poles, I have written a “Trauma Informed” Jelly Bean Easter Poem.
I believe it exercises a little restraint in not hitting too many trigger points for those that may have experienced past physical, verbal or emotional abuse, yet still gives the parent, teacher, or preacher an opportunity to talk about why Jesus’ death and resurrection is especially good news for those of us that struggle with guilt and shame. It has been said that there can be no “good news” without the “bad news” that we are sinners in need of salvation. I agree in principle, but believe the way we message that to vulnerable people is vitally important.
The individual recovering from adverse childhood experiences is likely keenly aware of their own brokenness… they don’t need to be convinced they are a sinner! So, understanding there is a felt need for hope, you can speak to the effect of sin (theirs and others, and the guilt and shame they feel) in order to address the hope we have in Jesus and the growth (see the green jelly bean) we can experience in relationship when we learn to love ourselves and others!
So, that’s it by way of a simple explanation. You can let me know if you think I have missed the mark. It’s my desire as a minister of the gospel to keep working on these crucial matters of communication to all people, but especially those made vulnerable by their past trauma and difficulty. May God bless you this Easter season.
Chaplain Chris Haughee (firstname.lastname@example.org)