"As I reflected on my experiences of trauma, I saw how my view of life changed. I learned very early that I had to manage on my own." - Beverly Sedlacek
With those two elements in play, being overwhelmed and without agency to change, trauma shatters how we view life moving forward. Our stories get transformed. We may begin to describe ourselves in terms of trauma—feeling overwhelmed and helpless to change anything about our lives. We begin to embody the trauma as belonging to our core identity.
As I reflected on my experiences of trauma, I saw how my view of life changed. I learned very early that I had to manage on my own. At age 3, an uncle molested me, and at age 5, my parents left me on a street corner alone as a joke. I became pregnant at age thirteen 13 and delivered a child without family support at age 14. The history of abuse and becoming such a young teenage mother suggested that I would be a statistic by not completing school and having more children out of wedlock. Indeed, according to statistics, experts projected my life would be bleak.
But God … after I had my son, I became an Adventist. I learned not only that there was life outside of the inner-city projects but also outside of Cleveland, Ohio. Indeed, the books I read in school and the young people I met in the church pointed me to another world that I wanted to be a part of.
Although my trauma experiences went unaddressed, I completed high school and college, seeing education as a meaningful way to achieve significance and success. I wanted to continue pursuing education but put mine on hold because I wanted my son, Eric, to have a Christian education. I worked hard to make that happen. He went through Christian schools from kindergarten through college.
I loved to study Scripture and found Isaiah, chapters 40-45, to be some of my favorites. However, there was a pesky verse that I could not make sense of. Isaiah 43:4 says, “Since you are precious and special in my sight, and I love you, I will hand over people in place of you, nations in place of your life.” The word “precious” was a word I could not comprehend experientially. Although I never defined myself as a trauma survivor, I could not see myself as precious. My ability to see myself as precious or unique was shattered. I viewed my experiences as events that defined me rather than shaped me.
Through a series of God-ordained events, I met my husband David, who God used to transform my vision and no longer limit me to a trauma survivor but to understand that my story has been changed from telling a trauma narrative to telling God’s story about who I am: extravagantly loved, cared for and precious.
The good news of the gospel and what God wants us to experience is that we may live our stories severed from trauma's narrative—hopeless, defective, overwhelmed, and without agency. We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. Instead of defining ourselves by trauma experiences, we can tell our stories of who we are defined by God's lens of love. That's fantastic news!
Beverly Sedlacek received her doctorate in nursing practice from Andrews University, with an expertise in psychiatric nursing. She maintains a thriving private counseling practice in Berrien Springs, counseling hurting people in the areas of trauma, addiction, abuse, relationship difficulties and emotional problems.