Victim or Victor, It’s All You
My favorite movie of all time is The Count of Monte Cristo, with Jim Caviezel. The story of a good man surrounded by scoundrels who unjustly abuse him. He is mentored by another who’s ultimately responsible for his freedom, not just freedom from prison, but freedom from hate and anger.
It is a transcendent storyline. Virtually anyone can see themselves in the character, excellently portrayed by this actor. For people who have survived child sexual abuse, domestic violence, as a child or youth especially, or human trafficking, the story has greater significance.
How many victims fantasize about exacting revenge on their captors or abusers? Few people realize the treasure they have within themselves because of the rage and anger that remains. Suffering the core violation of sexual abuse damages our very identity. We lose sight or never even come close to seeing the wonder of our own human potential. It is a prison in our minds, where we relive the trauma again and again.
In the movie, on the anniversary of his imprisonment, he is brutally beaten and reminded of his fate. Abuse memories visit survivors that same way. Depending on the extent of the abuse, the intensity, and the length of time one endured trauma, the anniversaries vary but they cement us in, just as if we were in a physical dungeon. The shame and guilt that are not our own, but imposed on us by others, become our bitter reality. The cold, hard world we live in is gray with no hope of release. There is an occasional rat that comes in and draws our attention. We identify with the lowest of creatures.
The mentor in the movie was no less imprisoned, but he knew of a treasure. His hope of escape kept him alive and kept him seeking others with whom he could share life outside of the horrible conditions. In this same way, those who have known the treasure of freedom from the damaged, marred identity imposed on us by our abusers, show us that same hope. We may not see the treasure. We may not begin to realize how powerful and magnificent it is.
The treasure is in our potential as human beings, created to be creative, to be full of wisdom, to be kind, to be magnanimous, to build, to love and be loved truly. We can think about the treasure and hope for escape, but there is also work to be done. It took years of education and training for the prisoner to become the count. It took tremendous effort, kept secret from his captors, to dig the way to freedom. At last, his freedom came not from that effort, but he was carried and delivered.
People who have suffered abuse face the same fate. We must focus on the treasure, on our true identity as people worthy of honor and love, full of potential to do great things with our lives. We must educate ourselves and train our minds and bodies to become the people who will live with excellence and grace. We must work toward the way to freedom. At last, our deliverance will come from allowing ourselves to be carried and taking nothing with us besides the map that shows the way.
The Way is Jesus. His words are our map. Our identity is our treasure.
At the end of the movie, the count realizes that freedom to be himself is the real treasure.
Be you. You are the righteousness of God. You are a royal priesthood. You are a peculiar people. You are joint heirs with Christ. You are saints. You are blessed beyond measure. You are made in the very image of God.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” says Romans 12:2. Do not be imprisoned any longer identifying with the damage done, but dig your way out and by education and training get ready for the freedom, but then receive it by resting and trusting in the fact that Jesus died for your freedom. He took your place before the judgment seat of God the Father. He took all of your shame and guilt, and everything wrong and washed it away. He is the way to freedom and eternity full of love and treasure.
Psalm 102: 19-20 says that God looks down from heaven and hears the groaning of the prisoner to release those appointed to death. You may be feeling like the Psalmist earlier in the passage, hurting, lonely, in despair. Maybe it is one of the anniversaries for you today. Perhaps, you are suffering the horrendous beating of the grave injustice of child sexual abuse.
There is no easy way out. The only hope is the treasure greatly sought by everyone on the planet.
The freedom to be you is the greatest treasure on earth. Truly, you are the treasure.