PTSD Spirituality: Peace with Myself and Genesis 1

Genesis 1 affirms that human life is sacred. That means your life is sacred.  For those who suffer from the soul wound of PTSD, this is extremely valuable and must be kept in mind.  The PTSD-Identity wants to isolate you, get people to give up on you, and then kill you.  The PTSD-Identity does not want you to realize that you have value, God created you for a reason, and that you are in a positive relationship with God.  PTSD seeks to destroy sacredness.  If you can armor yourself with this knowledge, then your soul is less susceptible to the attacks of PTSD. 

(Fair Warning:  This post is a touch long, but the thoughts on PTSD Spirituality, being at peace with myself, the Mesopotamian Enuma Elish, and the Bible’s Genesis 1 require some space to lay out.  While this post can stand alone and be understood by itself, it also builds on the essay, Can I have PTSD and Ever Be At Peace? and PTSD Despair Destroys Self  Worth)

Genesis 1: More Than The Enuma Elish

Structurally modeled from the Mesopotamian Enuma Elish, Genesis 1 injects the reality that we are made in relationship with God and that we are inherently valuable.  The Enuma Elish says human beings are made to be the slaves of the gods.  The gods do not care about our welfare.  We are not created in any essential likeness to them.  In the Enuma Elish, people are created to get the gods a daiquiri, sweep the floors, and take out the garbage.  Human life has no inherent value in the Enuma Elish.

Genesis 1 keeps the same order of creation that is found in the Enuma Elish.  But the similarity stops there.  The writers of Genesis 1 experienced and knew something about God that laid the foundation for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: That there is only one God.  While pushing monotheism is not the aim of the PTSD Spirituality blog, the realization of monotheistic reality in a polytheistic culture is remarkable and could have put their lives at risk.

More to the goals of the PTSD Spirituality blog are some of the other supernatural realities related by the writers of Genesis 1:

a. Human Beings have Value

b. Human beings are Created in God’s Image and Likeness

c. God Cares About Us.

d. Life is Sacred

e. We are Created to be in a Family-like Relationship with God, i.e., we are created in a positive relationship with God, we are not mere slaves

These spiritual realities set Genesis 1 distinctly apart from the Enuma Elish.  It is an amazing theological revelation that most people now don’t even realize: We have value, worth, regardless of what others may say or do.  We have value, regardless of what we ourselves may say or do.  The PTSD-Identity does not want you to know this.  Why not?  Because this knowledge can keep you alive.  It helps neutralize PTSD.

Genesis 1:26-28a: We Are in God’s Image and Likeness

Our text is as follows:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; …So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them…

Be aware that the use of man in the opening lines refers to humanity and not merely the beings gendered as male.  Both male and female are created in God’s image and likeness.  Neither the man nor the woman has a larger portion than the other.

Imago Dei: The Image of God 

In theology we understand the statement to be in the image of God as the “Imago Dei,” the Image of God.  Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God.  Much ink has been spilt on understanding what this means. 

The text establishes for us that we are made in a positive relationship with God.  We are not totally other from God, we are not 100% unrelated to God.  While we are not God, we have an essential likeness to God.  Thus, unlike the Enuma Elish, we are created in a fundamental relationship with God.  That in itself gives us value.

We inherently have value.  Even before we factor in our conduct, we have value.  Why?  Because God created us in his own image and likeness we possess built-in value.

Icons 

Similar to the word “image” is the Greek word “ikon,” usually transliterated as icon.  Many people know the word icon from the Orthodox Christian tradition, although it is also known to a lesser extent within Catholic Christianity.

People who misunderstand Christian tradition sometimes label those who pray with icons as idolaters.  They mistakenly believe that we actually pray to a piece of painted wood.  The icon, like much religious imagery, helps us to focus, concentrate and be open to the presence of God. 

An icon is like a magnifying glass for the soul to focus on God.

Just as when I read a Bible text and then focus on its message I am enabled to amplify my encounter with God, so then also non-verbal items like an icon can help me better know God.  We don’t worship our Bibles and neither do we worship our icons.  They are instrumental means to make ourselves more available to God and to learn about God better.

We are made in God’s image and likeness.  This by itself means every single one of us possess inherent value.  We are valuable.  We matter at the foundational level regardless of what we have done or what has been done to us.  Again, PTSD hates this.  PTSD wants to isolate you and make you feel like nothing. 

We wake up to the fact our lives are sacred and valuable when we remember that we share God’s image and likeness.

God Blesses Man and Woman

In Genesis 1:28, after creating man and woman, God blesses them.  While God creates everything and perceives its fundamental goodness, the aspect of the creation he chooses to bless is the aspect made in God’s own image and likeness: Human Beings, Male and Female. 

By extension, every human being is made in God’s image and likeness and is blessed. 

This includes people who suffer from the soul wound of PTSD.

Thus, every one of us is immediately blessed by God.  This blessing can stave off the attacks of PTSD.

Genesis 1:31,  All of Creation is Inherently Good

Our text states:

And God saw everything that he made, and behold, it was very good.  And there was evening, and there was morning, a sixth day.

Human beings, and the earthly creatures, are created on the sixth day.  (If you wonder why Bendictines eat only certain foods, then peek at the difference between what is created on the fifth day and the sixth day.  Three Cheers for the Bendictines!)

Yet, note that God sees everything he made on the sixth day as “very good” and not merely “good” (which is not too bad in itself, really).  While other days of creation are also marked as good, it remains noteworthy that the sixth day creation’s, including human beings, are announced as “very good.”  On the one hand it is because the sixth day culminates all of the days of creation.  It speaks to the entire creation, all of material and spiritual reality.  On the other hand, it is because it is the day he made humans in the image and likeness of God.

To be honest to God’s actions in this passage I need to be compassionate to not only all human beings, but to the entire creation, as God has stated its own essential goodness.

Peace with Myself, PTSD, and Genesis 1

These passages from Genesis 1 enable us to better understand our own inherent value:

1. God makes humanity in his image and likeness

2. God blesses humanity upon their creation

3. The day humanity is created it is marked not only as “good” but “very good.”

4. We are created in relationships with God, one another, and the environment God made.

We know from Genesis 1 that we have value.  When I say I need to be at peace with myself, it is based on the knowledge that I have value.  PTSD will try to convince me otherwise.  Toxic parts of society will try and convince me otherwise.  But I am made in the image and likeness of God and I realize I have an essential worth and value.  So do you, so do other people with PTSD.

This is why every one of us is worth praying for and caring about. 

No matter what PTSD has done to you.  No matter what the cause of your PTSD may be.  You have value.  You remain in relationship with God.

Coming Attractions

From Genesis 1 we know we are in relationship with God and we have inherent value, but can we later lose or reject that relationship? 

Do our own personal actions render us so guilty that we no longer have the inherent value shown in Genesis 1?  Could I have done an act so awful that I am now permanently tainted and God denies me? 

Could trauma inflicted on me taint me so I am no longer worthy?  That I lose my God given value?

Do we lose the image and likeness? 

Do we lose the blessing?

 The PTSD Spirituality blog will address those questions in its next installment on peace with oneself.

 Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Comments

  1. Thank you for this. I have recently been brought to the need to really look at my sense of my own worth of value compared to what God says I am worth. This will be of help as I work my way and pray my through it.

    • Hi Gary, it is dcertainly a long journey to live with PTSD. In my own life and working with others I do know that prayer can make the PTSD easier to bear. A healthy spirituality can help us deal with our traumas and the resulting PTSD. The spirituality will not make bones grow back or make PTSD just vanish, but it does make the pain easier to bear.
      Semper Pax, Dr. Z

  2. nice post. thanks.

    • Thank You. I also taught some of that material to my undergrads to help them know they have value – and so does everyone else! Thank you for visiting. Semper Pax, Dr. Z

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