Written By Trudi Joynt
Every August, our country marks Women’s Month, where we pay tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.
I am acutely aware of the struggles that these women went through which compelled them to gather and march in protest. The march was led by Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams.
Remembering this, I have thought about other women who have taken drastic measures to see the fulfilment of what they believe God has promised them. These are not women who are arrogant or self-centered but women who dare to live commendably for God.
The Bible mentions Sarah and Hagar among others and I would encourage you to make a point of doing a Bible study on the courageous women in the Bible in this Women’s Month. I believe that a common thread in the lives of women is the trauma that we experience throughout our lifetimes. As I think of Covid 19, we have faced illness, loss of loved ones, financial difficulties and I am certain that you could add to this list.
The article, Retelling Hagar’s story: reading trauma in Genesis 16 By Marina Hofman, elaborates on the trauma experienced in the story of Hagar. In looking at trauma in this story I can only imagine that Sarah experienced trauma in her own way as in her eyes, she was encountering the unfulfilled divine promise. The expectation that the promise of a son stirred in Sarah’s heart not becoming apparent must have caused her much grief. It is evident that Sarah surrendered the expectation and hope that she will participate directly in fulfilling the divine message given to Abraham.
Marina Hofman says, “Before our story begins, Hagar has been taken from her Egyptian home to Sarah’s household in Canaan. She has already been uprooted from her former social identity, place, family, and support system. This initial journey from Egypt to Sarah’s household may have caused Hagar physical and psychological distress. Her social standing as Sarah’s slave placed Hagar in a role of powerlessness, and it required her to adapt to life in a foreign environment. Although Hagar may have developed new strengths in this environment—resiliency and independence, for example—the impact of leaving one’s home does not disappear; it disrupts one’s very identity.
“A second and more obvious disruption to Hagar’s identity comes by way of her involuntary surrogacy. When she discovers she is pregnant, Hagar assumes a new identity. Hagar is now in a position of power as mother to Abraham’s child. Her pregnancy presents a transition from a state of powerlessness, as she can now look forward to a future that holds some promise, purpose, and meaning.”
Yet Hagar is cast out and while in the wilderness, the angel affirms that Yahweh has heard Hagar’s cry of affliction; the angel acknowledges Hagar’s trauma and assures her that God has not abandoned her. The profound impact of this divine comfort on Hagar is reflected in her response: Hagar names God as ‘the one who has seen her’.
However today, the majority of traumatic events comes from social and economic exploitation such as war, disease, poverty, and famine. C.S. Lewis, in his thesis The Problem of Pain, states that human history “is largely a record of crime, war, disease, and terror, with just sufficient happiness interposed to give them (the victim), while it lasts, an agonized apprehension of losing it, and, when it is lost, the poignant misery of remembering”.
In these trying times that we are facing, talking about trauma can be hard but it can make a big difference. In reading a novel recently I came across the concept of decompression that divers go through and I immediately equated it to what we go through as far as trauma is concerned.
“Diving and decompression go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other, as every dive is a decompression dive.” States Russell Bowyer, the guy behind https://www.scubadivingearth.com/what-happens-if-you-dont-decompress-when-scuba-diving/. He goes on to say the following, “What happens if you don’t decompress when scuba diving? If you don’t decompress when scuba diving you will end up with decompression sickness, which can be fatal. All dives are decompression dives, which means you should always ascend slowly after a dive and where appropriate carry out decompression stops. As a safety precaution, you should also perform a safety stop too.”
A decompression stop is a procedure that always takes place at the end of a dive. This is the time one spends at a given depth to reduce the amount of nitrogen or helium remaining in human tissue, due to the depth of the dive, before a diver rises to the surface.
My link to talking about the trauma you might be facing and decompression stops for a diver is that, if we as women are not taking the time to stop, acknowledge our trauma, talk and pray with someone regularly this could result in sickness, mental health issues, doubting God, etc. I encourage you to add anything you are experiencing to this list.
We can avoid this by spending time in God’s presence, reading the Bible, worship and debriefing with a friend or a counsellor. A diver stops a couple of times on their way up, at different points, to decompress and I would like to encourage you as women of God, who have been and will still be used greatly by God in our nation, to decompress to surface from whatever you might be facing.
I would like to leave this verse with you today,
“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.”
Psalm 145:3 (NIV)