by Amanda Ladwig…
One of the many amazing things about truly working through childhood sexual abuse is the act of taking every single thought, and terrible memory captive and watching Christ redeem them. Facing them. Feeling them. Without making excuses. Without placing or taking the blame. The abuse and abuser no longer linger in the darkest parts of your mind controlling or tainting the memories you have.
They are front and center. Begging to be defeated. Every day, and sometimes minute-by-minute, there are battles fought to reclaim simple things, innocent objects, smells, and sounds. Things that may seem trivial to others represent a great victory. That being said, today I fought a battle and won. Today, I reclaimed what should have been a pleasant childhood memory. Today, I ate an Italian wedding cookie and enjoyed it. That won’t mean much to you, but to me, it is a significant victory.
As a little girl, trips to my aunt’s house happened only a couple of times per year. She always prepared special things to eat for our visits. However, we didn’t get to eat until I had spent some time with her brother. It was only then, after being a good girl and “spending time with my boyfriend,” as he referred to himself, that I would have access to my favorite cookies. It didn’t take long before those cookies became like poison. For the mere smell of almond or amaretto to make me physically ill.
However, after 30 years of hiding all of the sordid details of my childhood. I believe the Holy Spirit, moving, convinced me it was time. Time to bury old demons and the only way I could do that was to reclaim the territory my enemy had taken so many years ago. Cookies.
My daughter and I baked them together. The house filled with the very familiar and slightly terrifying scent. As I paused before taking a bite, I reminded myself of where I was and the person I was with. I watched my daughter dance around singing about how good it was. I took in that very moment, and I took a bite.
It was wonderful. Not only did it taste good, but I felt strong. As if I was declaring to my abuser “No! You may not have these cookies! You defiled my innocence, but you may not steal my ability to enjoy a cookie!” My life is full of moments like that. Every day there is a battle fought and sometimes won. They often go unnoticed by the people closest to me. However, they are mighty victories.
My children will never know that this was an important day for me. That there was a time I considered Italian wedding cookies toxic and terrifying. They will always enjoy the smell and taste, and hopefully, it will stir wonderful memories.
There are often things we carry from our childhood that restrain our ability to enjoy simple things. It destroys our ability to accept and receive the good things God intended for us to have. Love and intimacy are one of those things. Just as the smell of a particular type of cookie triggered a reaction of fear and shame, the idea of love can seem meant for destruction. Therefore, the very idea that God “loves” us terrifies us. Love to an abuse survivor often means manipulation and pain.
The first, time I heard the verse, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” my reaction was not joy or amazement. My reaction was suspicion. I wanted to know what He wanted from me. Surely, I now owed Him something, or it was a trick.
It took me years to begin to understand that Christ chose me; He loves me not because He needs me for anything. He did not send His son to die for me in an attempt to guilt me into trusting Him or doing things for Him. He chose me and loves me because He is God. He is all sufficient.
I cannot reclaim my childhood. I still battle with depression and flashbacks. However, I can now, through Christ, reclaim how I react to things. I can choose feeling pleasure over feeling fear, and I can choose love over hate. I can choose these things because Christ has given me the power and the ability. This is part of the freedom found in Christ.
Freedom to love.
Freedom to forgive.
Freedom to rejoice.
Freedom to enjoy a cookie.