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Overcomers Series Part 2 – Overcoming the Paralysis of Your Present        
By Rev. Dr. Kelvin T. Calloway, Contributing Writer
Published January 11, 2023

Rev. Dr. Kelvin T. Calloway, Sr. (File photo)

Scripture: Deuteronomy 2:1-14

Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and I sat in our church’s gang intervention and prevention ministry meeting last month. The ministry is a collaboration of gang interventionists, preventionists, former gang members, community activists, law enforcement, and civic and social service agencies that meet weekly in a roundtable forum to share best practices and their stories in an effort to reduce gang violence in our community.

That night the topic was about trauma. Families of victims who had been murdered by gang violence were there to share their stories. As we listened to their stories of husbands and fathers and sons who had been murdered by gang violence, we were confronted firsthand with the trauma of their experience.

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The shock and the sleepless nights, the agony and the anxiety, the anger and the aloneness, the headaches and the heartbreaks, the tears and the tragedies, the denial and the disaster all were made real and personable to us. The gang life glorified in music for street credit and in movies for bank credit has resulted in tremendous carnage in our community.

I’m proud and humbled to say that Bethel L.A. has been there for our community. From the funerals and the closure of lives that ended much too soon to the support and comfort of these families in traumatic times to the assistance with resources to help these mothers and these spouses, and these children with their trauma, our church has been there for and with our community.

This conversation about trauma had a chilling and lasting effect on me. The emotional responses to these terrible life events caused me to take our gang intervention and prevention ministry even more seriously and admittedly provided the impetus for this sermon series. What we heard that night was not just individual stories but a litany of community stories that gave way to an even larger issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Related Links:

https://lasentinel.net/words-of-the-week-overcoming-the-pain-of-your-past.html

https://lasentinel.net/free-from-the-imprisoned-mind-partp4-overcoming-the-insurmountable.html

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Many of those who shared that night were expressing difficulty with moving on with their lives. The deeply distressing and disturbing shock from their unresolved trauma was causing emotional, spiritual, psychological and behavioral paralysis.

This kind of paralysis is not just limited to gang violence, but according to the American Psychiatric Association, trauma can be attributed to natural disasters, divorce, death of a loved one, grief, breakup of a relationship, sexual assault, or any life altering event (apa.org/topics/trauma).

Unresolved trauma sisters and brothers can paralysis you. It can cause you to be down so long that it looks like up to you. Unresolved trauma can paralyze you.

The initial work of the noted African American psychiatrist Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint and the extended work of Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary in her book entitled, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome,” (PTSS) asserts that African Americans sustained this kind of traumatic injury as a result of slavery and such an injury has caused intergenerational psychological trauma. Generations that never experienced the events of slavery are still manifesting the psychological, spiritual, emotional and behavioral syndrome of slavery.

Their work challenged me to take a deeper dive into Israel’s story and ask if such a syndrome was at work with them. If the Israelites in the text were experiencing Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome after 400 years of bondage in Egypt, then maybe they were not as stiff-necked (Exodus 32:9) and hardhearted as the historian made them out to be. Maybe their murmuring and complaining (Exodus 15, 16, & 17) were signs of their syndrome.

Maybe their rebellion and rejection of the leadership that the Lord provided them through Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:41) were expressions of their illness. Maybe their desire to return to their Egyptian bondage was an expression of their internalized slave mentality (Exodus 14:12 & 16:3).

From Egypt, across the Red Sea, to the wilderness of Mount Seir, the Lord had led them. But, their journey to the land the Lord had promised their ancestors had stalled at Mount Seir for 38 years. And now the Lord says to Moses, “You have been round this mountain long enough.” (v.2).

To overcome the paralysis of your present, you must decide to get up from the place of your paralysis. God wants you to be free from the bondage of your paralysis. God created you in His image and in His likeness as a freewill moral agent (Gen.1:26-27). Get up and come to yourself.

That’s what the prodigal son did when he found himself paralyzed in a pigpen, he came to himself. He got up from the slop of the paralysis of the pigpen when he realized that he could do better in his father’s house (Luke 15:11-32).

My sister and my brother, you can do better. Even though down may look like up to you, you can do better. Even though you’ve been down so long that getting up ain’t cross your mind, you can do better. Even though you been stuck on stupid, for a long time, you can do better. In the name of Jesus, get up from the place of your paralysis!

Your family wants you to get up. Your friends want you to get up. Your community wants you to get up. Your church wants you to get up, and your Christ wants you to get up. Get up from the place of your paralysis. To overcome the paralysis of your present, you must get up from the place of your paralysis.

Then to overcome the paralysis of your present, you must decide to get out of the place of your paralysis. The Lord told Moses to turn and go northward (v.3), move forward and take with them the resources that the Lord had provided for them so when they came to the land of the descendants of Esau, they could pay for food to eat and water to drink. They could pay for what they needed because the Lord had provided them with the silver to do (vv.4-7).

But don’t just try to get up and move forward by yourself. The psychological effects of paralysis are too traumatic to move forward by yourself. Move forward with the resources that the Lord has provided for you. My grandmother would say, “If you make one step, He’ll make two.” The Israelites were to move forward by way of the lands occupied by their relatives; the descendants of their father’s brother, Esau (v.4).

The Lord had already made a way for them to get out of the place of their paralysis. He had already provided the resources that they needed to get out of the place of their paralysis. They just had to make the first step in His direction (northward). Make the first step today and decide to get out of the place of our paralysis with the resources that the Lord has provided you.  \

And then, to overcome the paralysis of your present, you must decide to get to the place of your promised freedom (vv.8-11). Mount Seir was never to be their place of destination. It was only to be their place of resting.

The land promised their ancestors was their place of destination. To be a great nation was their destination. To be a blessed nation was their destination. To be a blessing to other nations was their destination (Gen. 12:1-4). But they had been around this wilderness place of resting too long!

Never allow the paralysis of your present to become the place of your destination. Decide to get to the place of your blessing. Decide to get to the place of your healing. Decide to get to the place of your deliverance. Decide to get to the place of your promised freedom.

Amen, and Amen, and Amen!

Resources for Overcoming The Paralysis of Your Present

  • Lay May Burden Down: Suicide and The Mental Health Crisis Among African Americans, Alvin F. Poussaint
  • Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, Joy DeGruy Leary
  • What Happened To You, Oprah Winfrey
  • Trauma, PTSD, Grief and Lost, Mike Dubi, et.al.
  • Treating Psychological Trauma and PTSD, John P. Wilson, et. al.
  • Forgiving What You Can’t Forget, Lysa Terkeurst
  • PTSD: How To Overcome Trauma, Dissociative Disorder, and Grief, Jennifer Wartz
  • It Didn’t Start With You, Mark Wolynn
  • Fractured Souls and Splintered Memories, Christy P. Kane
  • Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman
  • Westmont Counseling Center (www.westmonycounseling.org)
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  • PTSD Alliance
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

 

The Rev. Dr. Kelvin T. Calloway is the senior pastor of Bethel AME Church in Los Angeles.

 

Categories: Religion
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