“That’s a crazy idea” I said aloud in an otherwise empty car. I was driving south along Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, en route for an overdue haircut, and was listening to an interview with Esad Boskailo and Julia Lieblich on the local NPR affiliate. The pair are co-authors of the book Wounded I Am More Awake.
The crazy idea they were hawking was that experiences of trauma and terror, rather than being a one-way ticket to a ruined life, can actually become a gateway into hope, healing, and service. Crazy or not, it’s been on my mind ever since.
Boskailo’s idea doesn’t sound so crazy when he explains it — because it’s also his story. He lived through the Bosnian genocide (1992-1995; Leiblich is a journalist who covered the conflict): a physician, he was held in six concentration camps, and in one, a guard repeatedly told him “I am coming to kill you tomorrow morning.” Boskailo believed him, because the guard had promised the same to others – and delivered. But after several sleepless nights, he had to learn to live with his terror, and he survived.
After the genocide ended, Boskailo came to the United States and worked with those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now a psychiatrist himself, he has put his training at the service of others who have lived through terror and trauma. Out of his suffering has come hope.
As I listened, I couldn’t get one word out of my head: “redemption.” We use the word to refer to something Jesus did for us: forgiving our sins, on the cross, once and for all. And that’s true.
But redemption doesn’t stop there, at the remedy for our sins and failings. In the shadow of the cross, there’s also room for all the pain, suffering, and trauma in this life; and it’s redeemed not so much for us as in us, remaking and reshaping our brokenness into a source of new life for others. And if our woundedness makes us more awake, and spurs us to serve, maybe we’re better off broken, more alive and better able to love than if we were proof against hurt.
It’s a crazy idea. I also think it’s true.