In defense of innocence

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

In every corner of society, people are grappling with how to stop child molestation. The stories are wrenching for all of us – the victims, the parents, and those who violated their trust. The human heart knows that children should be allowed to remain children. The freedom and innocence of the formative years are foundational to self-worth, fearlessness, and the willingness to make commitments to others.

Innocence seems to be one of the first things we lose in life. Yet innocence is our original condition as children of God. The honesty, lack of worldliness, and freedom from blame associated with innocence are actually the substance of our relation to God. We learn through prayer, study of the Bible, and daily living of our highest ideals that our oneness with God is intact.

In overcoming the scars of my experience as a sexually and physically abused child, I struggled long and hard to find the ability to trust in the good in my life. I always felt a hunger for approval and a constant dissatisfaction with the amount of goodness in my life. The breakthrough came one day in the middle of praying, when a sweet childhood memory came flooding back. My little brother and I were cloud-watching on a summer day in an open field, finding shapes of animals and flowers and anything that caught our fancy. The memory refreshed my heart in such a way that I could almost feel the warmth of that Texas breeze.

Then I realized that the worst of the sexual abuse had been going on during that same summer. How reverent I felt to find that evidence of goodness in my life at a time of great fear and confusion.

I began to understand why innocence had never been taken from me: God would continue to make His love for me known, and there was no human action that could stop the evidence of that loving care.

An amazing thing happened the other day when I was speaking with a friend about her ability to move forward in her life. I was telling her that the turning point in the healing of abuse is when people realize that they have an identity other than the evil things that have happened to them. A big part of that is realizing that the child was not to blame for the ignorance and manipulation of the molester. For the first time I didn't even feel the need to tell my friend what I'd had to deal with in my own life.

I felt as if I were talking about someone else, because I knew I had an identity outside of all the messed-up consequences of disrespect for my body. My sense of myself was no longer formed by somebody else's criminal act.

The saving action of Christ, Truth, brings the understanding that nothing can invade the security of our oneness with God. Confidence and happiness are anchored in the innocence that has withstood the ages.

In my prayers in response to the many news reports of abuse, I find myself praying for the people who abused me as well. I have come to understand that a defense of innocence is the solution for both victim and abuser. When sin is uncovered it can feel like a wrenching destruction of someone's reputation and future. But what is being destroyed are the lies that have hidden the true foundation for one's self-worth – one's heritage as the child of God, good. The change of perspective is radical. A victim of abuse should recognize that his or her relationship to God is untouched; the perpetrator of the crime should recognize that respect for that relationship is the only basis for future usefulness to society.

A statement by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, commits us to lives protected from culturally induced and condoned sensuality: "Beloved children, the world has need of you, – and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives. You need also to watch, and pray that you preserve these virtues unstained, and lose them not through contact with the world. What grander ambition is there than to maintain in yourselves what Jesus loved, and to know that your example, more than words, makes morals for mankind!" ("Miscellaneous Writings, 1883–1896," pg. 110)

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