from Amanda Bennett
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. – Psalm 119:67
When my life was consumed by PTSD, my best attempts to describe my inner turmoil always felt like code for something else, a gesture toward a more basic affliction underlying the specifics of my sorrow. My complete personal cataclysm exposed but did not cause the shattering at my center. When my treatment finally began to work and my mental chaos died down, I was able to name the woundedness that did not shift with medication: something was broken between me and God, a hole where union should be, a loss of intimacy that felt both primal and urgent, a tear across the ground of my spirit which is most properly called original sin.
I had always believed that my closeness to God was in direct proportion to the minutes I spent in prayer. When I lost the capacity to sit in silence, I came face to face with my helplessness. I had never quite reached the basic ground of my selfhood in my spiritual disciplines, and I certainly never healed it. Even when prayer returned to me, I felt the gap in my relationship with God, and I no longer believed that if I prayed the right amount and knew the Bible well enough I would one day wake up whole. The distance from God I was aware of enough to avoid acknowledging no longer seemed like a trick of light I could resolve if given time.
I don’t have an explanation for suffering, but I know what affliction did for me: it stripped me down to the nakedness of my spirit and showed me my true poverty. Grief revealed the ache of God’s absence at the bottom of my heart, and by unveiling my soul to me it created the possibility for healing. I learned to ask that this distance might be filled. I cannot say that I perfectly keep God’s law now, but in the last several months I have begun to be conscious of the abiding presence of Christ at the core of my spirit, an immutable bond grounded in grace underneath everything I think and do. Deeper than absence is union.
I study theology at Boston College and always end up quoting the Nicene Creed after I drink cocktails. I never voluntarily end conversations, and I am allergic to practical application and action steps. You can find me in a room by scanning the room for my curly red hair and exaggerated fear of being misunderstood.