It is a rare thing for me to share in my Weekly Thoughts on the same subject as the monthly teaching series, but moral injury is so prevalent in the church and unaddressed, that I thought it would be helpful. The audio teaching allows more in depth points than here, but these Weekly Thoughts on the subject will cover some good elements.
Again, a moral injury is an injury to the framework of right and wrong we hold internally. That framework is how we think of ourselves, interact with the world and people, and forms our world view. When that moral fabric of our being is violated by someone or some thing we trust or believe in, our world crumbles in confusion and a sense of not belonging or knowing who we are.
When we become Christians we tie what we think is God's moral framework into our own, so that when we receive a moral injury, we feel God has let us down or has in some way, a part to play. It means that millions of people love Jesus, don't know the Father, and more than that, don't trust Him.
A popular Pastor of a mega church died while still a rather young man, and at his memorial service a famous TV teacher spoke. To the disgust of the thousands assembled, including the pastor's widow and children, the Bible teacher chastised them for feeling sorrow over the loss of their pastor, husband, and father. He said they should all be rejoicing over his home-going and that it is not scriptural to feel sad about a Christian's death.
Besides angering the thousands, what he said mirrors much of church culture's approach to genuine anguish of the soul - let's all look to heaven for if we can't lay on hands to heal it, if we can't cast it out, if we can't give money to fix it, let's wait until heaven when everything will be made right. Let's not deal with real issues.
What does a person do to rebuild their moral fabric when a trusted person or authority perpetrated a great act of betrayal against all they knew as right?
Step 1 to healing: Mourning, grieving, counting the damage done, taking time to feel:
The Bible teaches the practice of acknowledging one's loss or injury to the soul or moral fabric of our being. It teaches us to embrace the feeling the loss, taking time to grieve, mourn, and take account of a loss or injury to the soul.
Romans 12:15 tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Genesis 23:2 tells us Abraham mourned and wept over Sarah's death.
Genesis 50: 2-4 says when Jacob (Israel) died his family mourned 40 days, and the Egyptians mourned 70 days.
But it is Ezekiel 2:10 that gives us a framework for the purpose of mourning: "And he spread it before me (the scroll); and it was written front and back, filled with words of lamentation, and mourning, and woe..."
The moral injury that was written down for Ezekiel was the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and the carrying away of thousands of Jewish people who were resettled in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar's army had come in three waves of attack over several months, each attack carrying away people and goods, even the furnishings and contents of of the temple and its storehouses.
The moral structure of the good and righteous Jewish citizens had been destroyed. All they thought of God - that He would protect and provide for them - was shattered. Yes, it had been prophesied this would happen if the nation as a whole didn't repent, but for the righteous who still held out hope, their lives were shattered.
God presented Ezekiel a scroll written on the front and back of all that was to be mourned. There is value in accepting and counting the injury to our souls. Not for the purpose of dwelling on it, but rather to acknowledge our hurt, our violation, our loss. There is value in taking ownership that 'this' happened to me.
A moral injury is like part of them died inside. An innocent part. A good part. A part that believed the best and hoped in God's protection. But He let us down we now feel. Own that. Acknowledge that. Faith is allowed to challenge God, to reason with Him, to question why this or that happened. Faith and transparency go together. Be real. It's not just the loss of innocence or the feeling of being dirty inside, nor even the brutal violation of all that was right and wrong. It is a death of part of your soul. God wrote it down for Ezekiel so he could see it and feel it. He told Ezekiel to eat the scroll and it was bitter. God the Father knows the bitterness of soul a moral injury causes, but He doesn't want us to sweep it under the rug, hidden out of view like it never happened.
Write it down
We have a book in the Bible called 'Lamentations' that Jeremiah wrote about the exact same thing as Ezekiel, for he felt the exact injury to his moral structure. These are works of mourning, of counting the cost, of detailing the confusion, hurt, loss felt in their hearts.
Writing it down is healthy if done the right way. God says deal with it, own it, take inventory of your loss and injury. But don't live there. Forty days were allotted for Israel to mourn Moses, then they got back to life. There is a time to weep, a time to refrain from weeping.
Today we call what God did for Ezekiel 'journaling' and in days past personal diaries were popular, where every hurt and anguish, victory and defeat could be expressed in confidence. The word 'lamentation' is used to describe a wailing song, often with the beating of the chest, in deep pain and loss.
Lamentations 1:1 start the process of mourning, of realizing Jeremiah's loss : "Look at the city, now sitting empty and alone, that used to be filled with people!" That sets the tone for the whole book of Lamentations, but the journaling of Lamentation later starts to weave God's faithfulness and hope in with expressions of lamentations. He turns a corner.
The key is not to stay in mourning, not to focus on that list of wrongs, those hurts that you wrote down. In Psalm 56:8 David remembered all the hurt, all the injury to his moral framework he both did to himself and that which was inflected upon him, stating and asking: "All my tears are kept in your bottle; are they not (also) written down in your book?"
The Lord has recorded all that you have suffered, and all the resulting tears you have shed. Write it down, but know that He too has written it down, and that knowledge helps us turn from the dangers of dwelling on the destruction of our moral framework. There IS justice in the end. I'll pick it up there next week, until then, blessings,
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