Landmines of the Soul

May 8 / Katie Skurja
Along the northeast border of the fertile farmlands of France lies the idyllic town of Verdun. This region is infamously known as the site of the WWI Battle of Verdun, where an estimated billion shells and bombs rained down on the area. Over one hundred years later, the earth still coughs up bombs and shells in the former battle zone as the ground shifts and groans. In the early years after the war, it was commonplace for farmers to dig up undetonated bombs as they plowed their fields, often causing explosions that would maim or kill. To this day, there is a special bomb task force designated to search for and properly dispose of the dangerous relics. It is estimated there are nearly 300 million unexploded bombs remaining in the area, some weighing as much as 500 pounds. Due to modern machinery digging much deeper than in the past, surprise explosions are still a yearly occurrence.

Like the beautiful countryside of France, our soul can be riddled with undetonated bombs. These landmines wreak havoc in our lives and in the lives of those who happen to set off a tripwire unawares. Some of these landmines lie just below the surface, while others are buried deep in the caverns of our unconscious awareness. While some of these landmines were passed down to us from unprocessed shame, grief, and trauma from previous generations, others were dropped in our souls on the battlefield of life. Though not everyone ends up with 500-pound bombs caused by unspeakable tragedies, no one passes through life unscathed from the air raids of enemy fire. A soul embedded with hundreds of small shells and bombs can still maim and kill. Death by a thousand cuts is still death.

For many people, the destructive landmines come from friendly fire. Whether intentionally or accidentally, we can deposit undetonated shells and painful shrapnel in the lives of those we love the most. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people.

These landmines of our soul are created by:

The lies we believe about God, self, and others.
The tragedies and traumas we experience.
Judgments of self that cause us to reject our humanity.
The fears that cause us to detach from our Imago Dei, the image of God within.
The pain and shame passed down in our family of origin.

Some of the tell-tale signs of the existence of landmines are defensiveness, high reactivity, self-protective walls, being easily offended, and frequent trips on the fast train to crazy town. Stepping into someone’s landmine field is akin to the proverbial feeling of walking on eggshells: you never know which step will cause an explosion. When we blindly live with these landmines, we are tempted to blame the one who hits one of our tripwires, which can set off a chain reaction of explosions. If we can pay attention to the rumblings in our souls without judgment and blame, these tripwire triggers can become our teachers. We can develop the ability to detect buried explosives.

Instead of protecting our tripwires by withdrawing from anyone who might set them off, we can choose to pay attention to them. We can listen to what these tender places tell us about ourselves, what stories are behind them, and be curious about what holds them in place. Our triggers can be our teachers; they are our responsibility to address, regardless of how they came to live inside our souls.

In addition to paying attention when a tripwire goes off, causing us to go into a code red self-protect mode, we can also engage practices that allow them to come into our conscious awareness to clear them out. Like the bomb task force in France, we can actively search for the undetonated landmines in our souls by engaging in spiritual practices. Some of these practices include, but are not limited to:

Lectio Divina and other scripture practices
Daily examen
Contemplative prayer
Seeking out regular spiritual direction
Practicing forgiveness
Healing prayer – bringing those bombs into the Light with Christ, who is a master at defusing bombs.

In the spiritual growth process, high offend-ability indicates a low-level spiritual maturity, while a low offend-ability suggests a higher, deeper, or more mature level of spiritual growth. We avoid the difficult task of defusing these landmines at our own peril and to the detriment of others who can get wounded in the fallout. As Richard Rohr says, “Pain that is not transformed is transferred.”

The next time you discover a landmine in your soul, resist the temptation to blame another for hitting a tripwire or bury it deeper where no one can find it. Instead, let the Spirit of God take the lead on the bomb squad, allowing the spirit of grace to defuse and transform whatever created the bomb in the first place.

If you want to hear more from the Imago Dei Team, we’d love to invite you to our upcoming workshop: Experience Integration Healing. Centered on the diamond within, our Imago Dei, we will explore and apply concepts, tools, and processes found to facilitate inner healing and transformation. Join us for this half-day experiential on Friday, May 19th, from 1-5:30pm.

Katie Skurja

Catherine “Katie” Skurja is the founder and director of Imago Dei Ministries. Deeply rooted in and dedicated to Trinitarian principles, the ministry’s purpose is to help people everywhere engage in a Christ-centered healing process that transforms relationships with God, self, and others. Her greatest passion is to accompany people in the journey of discovering who they are in their Imago Dei (image of God). With training as a counselor, spiritual director, and in the work of inner healing prayer, Katie combines the three disciplines to help guide people through the layers of false self and shame in order to bring about the integration of the whole person. Katie and Jim have been married for 33 years and have two grown sons as well as a few “adopted” daughters with whom they share life. She loves to garden, hike, walk on the beach, cook, and read.