Jesus told a story of a man who had an evil spirit cast out. The evil spirit wandered in the wilderness, then returned to find the man’s soul “empty and swept clean.” The evil spirit gathered seven more spirits worse than himself, returned to the man and he was worse off than before.
Ever since I have worked in healing ministry, that story has reminded me of the reality of a relapse. People can get themselves “empty and swept clean” through detox, through checking into rehab where they are cloistered away from their triggers, through white knuckling it and attending meetings every day, through accountability with a sponsor, etc. But, in the same way that nature abhors a vacuum in the physical realm, a spiritual vacuum is not going to remain empty for very long either. Something will fill a soul. When the negative “people, places, and things” have been removed, it is necessary for one to have the emptiness filled with something else, something more valuable, productive, engaging, and hope-filled.
This principle is illustrated with some specifics in Ephesians 4, as the Apostle Paul reminds us that we are to indeed “put off the old, put on the new.” This principle is discussed at length and practiced in Steps 6 and 7 when our students examine their character defects and ask for God’s help in identifying, removing, and replacing those character defects with the character and attributes of Christ!
“You have heard Him (Jesus) and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give [g]place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, [i]clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
It occurs to me that trauma-informed care is about guiding people OUT OF something…putting off the recurring negative emotions and thoughts (and sometimes physical symptoms) wrought by painful past events.
Faith- informed care is about guiding people IN TO something…. putting on the sustainable positive thoughts and resulting joy that can be wrought in the soul and spirit by knowing God and oneself better and discovering the joy of spiritually healthy, well-resourced, boundaried and accountable faith community.
For lasting benefit, it is necessary to do both….put off the old AND put on the new. At Titus 2, this is a significant part of our work, helping women discover and embrace those positive, valuable, productive people, practices, and places that will permanently replace and prevent the return of the old ways. One truly does become a new person in Christ!