A few weeks ago, Dawn Eden discovered my blog, Theological-Librarian. She got in touch with me and told me that her publisher would send a free copy of her newest book, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, to bloggers who were willing to review it.
I jumped at the chance. A free book? What more could any bibliophile want?
Then I had second thoughts; and a friend asked me why I was reading, and writing a book review of, a book for those who had “sexual wounds.” After all, I hadn’t been wounded in that way.
I wondered that, too, until I read Eden’s book.
My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, despite its subtitle, is not only for those who have sexual wounds (e.g. those who have addictions to pornography or masturbation, or who have grown up in an environment that does not respect their dignity and modesty). My Peace I Give You is for all of us who have been wounded, particularly for those of us whose childhood has been wounded or taken away from us through circumstances beyond our control.
I wish I had read this book a year ago, when wounds that I had been denying for years had arisen and slapped me in the face, when I was fighting tooth and nail to avoid admitting that I was wounded. This is the book that helped me to admit: “Yes, I’m wounded…and it’s okay. That doesn’t mean I’m weak; it means that God is giving me an opportunity to heal.” Eden explains how admitting our woundedness helps us heal:
God not only wants to heal our wounds: if we let him, he will heal us through our wounds, making everything we have endured serve to draw us nearer to him in love. (xxxi)
The God in Whom we believe and Whom we adore is a wounded God; Dawn reminds us of the prayer Anima Christi (Soul of Christ), with its line: “Within Thy wounds hide me.” She writes: “[The prayer] goes from asking Christ to be within you to asking that you may be within him. More than that, where in Christ are you asking to be sheltered? Within his wounds” (xxi).
If we take our wounded selves to the Wounded Christ, we will find in His wounds the one thing that will heal us: His Love.
Christ’s Wounds are an expression of His Love, and Eden shows how this love heals us as in each chapter she discusses a different aspect of the love that heals us. The saints are the ones who help us to see this love at work in the lives of ordinary, down-to-earth people, as Eden writes:
[T]hey opened their hearts to me so that I might, through their love, enter more deeply into the Heart of Christ. It is the mission of the entire Communion of Saints—that we may all be one, even as the Father and the Son are one (Jn 17:11). In his will is our peace. (181)
The saint whose story particularly struck me was St. Ignatius of Loyola. Eden puts his story in the chapter “The Love We Forget”—love that heals our memories. Specifically, this love is “the experience of continually being sustained in existence by God” (37). That is a “love we forget” because how many of us ever reflect on the fact that if God ceased thinking about us for one instant, we would exist no more? Eden uses the Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola, with its line: “Take, O Lord, and receive . . . my memory” as her springboard for this chapter:
In Ignatius’s understanding of the human mind, the concept of memory refers to more than just particular memories. Memory includes everything that had entered into his consciousness to make him who he was—whether or not he could actually remember it. It forms the foundation of his present identity, including his hopes for the future.
This is an ancient way of understanding memory . . . and it makes particular sense for one who has survived trauma…. Often in trauma survivors . . . the brain attempts to protect itself by consigning painful swaths of the past to areas where memory’s tendrils cannot reach them. Yet the memories of traumatic events, whether present to us or not, remain part of us.
The answer to those memories includes
what spiritual theologians call a ‘purification of memory.’ This does not have to include reliving the details of traumatic events; indeed, it shouldn’t, if the pain of recalling them is too much to bear. However, it does require the willingness to enter into the past so that we might disentangle traumatic events from events that were not traumatic. When we do this, we reclaim the hidden treasures that are rightfully ours.
This same weaving of the lives of the saints and her own experiences continues through the rest of Eden’s book.
In conclusion, Eden reminds us that only God can bring good out of evil, but that He will do this if we unite our wounds to His:
God permitted my heart to be wounded so that I might take shelter in Jesus’ pierced Heart, and so that Jesus might find a home in mine. But, beyond even that, he permitted it so that my heart would be big enough to provide shelter to other wounded souls, bringing to them the same Christ I have received. (180-181)
And that is exactly what Eden has done in this book. She has given us the same shelter from our wounds that she found—the wounds of Christ.