by Sarah Beisly
“How has your research been transforming you?”
I have spent most of my adult life with my head, heart and hands in theology. I have been asking questions like what does it mean for God’s Kingdom to come in our place and among our people? I have a tattoo in the Bengali language on my forearm that says ‘tomar rajjo ashuk’ which is the line from the Lord’s Prayer ‘May your Kingdom come’. This has been my life mantra and was my underlying motivation for moving my family to India to found a social business, where we served for 10 years.
However, on August 7th, 2018, my life changed forever, when I became acutely unwell with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was abruptly forced to leave my home and my work. This upheaval was the catalyst of what become a two-year healing journey that included medication, weekly trauma therapy and a whole lot of reflection and rest. I love learning and it was empowering for me to understand the science behind how trauma was being stored in my body. I am deeply thankful for the world of trauma theory and all that has been discovered, as this research has enabled me to become well. I feel more fully myself now, than I have ever felt in my life.
And yet, I was feeling a sense of dis-ease, because I had these two parts of me, my faith (my theology), and my healing journey (my psychology), that felt quite separate. They seemed at odds with one another, and I didn’t know how to integrate them. I wasn’t seeing any examples around me of people doing this work. When I heard about the post-graduate paper ‘Human Flourishing’, I was excited. This research paper gives us the tools to put theology and science into a robust conversation with one another. I signed up for the paper, as an opportunity to do my own personal integration work of bringing my theology and psychology together.
The paper is enabling me to do just that. I am feeling like more of an integrated person, rather than being split down the middle. I have discovered excellent writers like Serene Jones, Shelly Rambo and Chelle Stearns who have gone before me, and are asking courageous questions about how our newfound understanding of trauma, demands that we reimagine our theology. I’ve found their writing deeply validating and hopeful. This rigorous research is helping me to find my own voice at this cross-section. My personal integration work is enabling me to see where theology and trauma theory can enrich one another. I am also learning to be more ok in the places where these fields don’t reconcile. The working of integrating different fields of study is difficult and messier than we would often like to admit. But it is rich, fertile ground for robust discussion, renewed neural-pathways, and fresh ideas. Finally, as a gracious gift, this study is helping me to feel more connected with God and with myself.
Sarah Beisly graduated from Carey Baptist College in 2007. She and her husband Paul founded The Loyal Workshop in Kolkata, India. Sarah is currently studying a Postgraduate Diploma of Applied Theology at Carey.