On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” John 20:19
When Jesus walked into that locked room on the night of his resurrection and declared, “Peace be with you,” he was giving his disciples exactly what they needed for the state of mind they were in after the traumatic past few days. Today, we might describe what Jesus did as Trauma-Informed Care. Jesus met his disciples where they were, and acknowledging the trauma they had witnessed, he assured them that they were not alone.
Unlike Jesus, who has perfect insight into people’s lives, when I enter a hospital room, my knowledge of what’s going on in someone’s life is limited to the conversations we have while I’m visiting. If I then start making judgments about their situation with such limited knowledge about their life, I’m bound to mess up, naively and unfairly drawing conclusions that can hinder my ministering to them.
I’m reminded of a young man whom I became acquainted with in the hospital. As we talked, I learned that Leon was a homeless heroin user and that he had some unresolved grief issues. The things I didn’t know, however, created a gulf in our relationship. I did not understand the impact of childhood traumas on adult behavior. I did not understand that Leon may have been using drugs to calm the trauma lingering in his mind in an attempt to stay in control of his life. I assumed drug use was a moral failure. I also didn’t understand the difficulty his family was facing as they tried to help him. They seemed to truly want to help keep him safe, but they couldn’t allow him to live with them because of a “crack house” law which banned landlords and renters from allowing drug use on their property. In other words, if Leon stayed with his mom, she could be evicted from her home.
Because of my limited knowledge of his situation, I failed to understand how dangerous it was for him when we met on the day he was released from jail. He was back on the streets without a support system in place to help him cope. He was terrified that if his drug dealer found him, he would start using again. I didn’t know that because Leon had been clean for some time, he was 40% more vulnerable to overdose than other users. I didn’t know to tell him to call me if he thought he was going to use again. I didn’t know that I could have carried Narcan, and if he had called me, I could have reversed his overdose and he wouldn’t have died at the age of 29.
To me Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” and he forgives my shortcomings. I move forward, becoming more informed and vowing to listen and learn from those I meet so that the next time I meet someone like Leon, I am better prepared to share Christ’s words of comfort, “Peace be with you!”