Last weekend I want to an amusement park with my family, my wife’s parents, and her sister’s family. It was a small amusement park, and it was almost empty. It was a special time. Quiet, peaceful.

At one point, I wandered into the indoor play area for children ages 2-4. My 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter were already there playing with their 2-year-old cousin. There were little houses with furniture and toy kitchen appliances, there was a merry-go-round, a pool of plastic balls, and an area where you could throw big balloons at each other.

And I just wanted to stay there. I knew I was too big to go on the rides and play with the toys, but I just wanted to be there. I wanted time to stop. I wanted my childhood back. And I realized that that was something that nobody in this world could give me.

But where did my childhood go?

The Loss of Innocence

I do not know when I was first exposed to sexually explicit content, but I know that it was when I was a child. I grew up with a degree of this in my life. It was around at friend’s houses, at relative’s houses, and at one point, even in my own home. There were times when I just saw the stuff lying around, and there were times when it was shown to me intentionally.

Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Statistically speaking, you’ve probably gone through something similar.

It took me 20 years, but I finally realized that exposing a child to sexually explicit content constitutes sexual abuse. Now, I’m not mad at anybody, nor do I see myself as a victim. But the first step in healing is to acknowledge what happened.

And here’s what I learned from acknowledging this: nothing in my life took my childhood from me faster than that abuse. I’ve been through some hard times – war, sudden hearing loss, debt, and more. While these things may have caused me pain, stress, and grief, none of them stole my innocence from me. That abuse did.

Counting the Cost

I wish I could tell you that I’ve gone through my entire adult life without intentionally viewing sexually explicit content. But I can’t. I did, however, know that it was wrong, and I did not want to do it again.

If I chose to act as a victim of abuse, I may not have positioned myself to stop this behavior. But if I chose to embrace that I am no longer a victim, because someone else became the victim for me, I could take responsibility over my life. I could put in place a plan to stop this behavior.

I chose the latter. And I knew that I needed a way to count the cost of this behavior, if I was faced again with the choice of doing it or not.

The Machine That Sucks Years From Your Life

The picture that came to mind is one that sits well with me. It’s the scene from “The Princess Bride” where Wesley, the hero, is hidden in a dungeon. He’s lying on a table, in restraints. He’s hooked up to some kind of machine, but he doesn’t know what it does. Beside him stands a grotesque, hunchbacked dungeon master, tending to the wounds Wesley sustained in the Fire Forest. Then, in walks Count Tyrone Rugen – the Six-Fingered Man. He walks up to the curious machine, and we learn that it’s actually a unique torture device – one that steals years from your life. The Six-Fingered Man raises the machine’s lever, and begins to suck away years from an agonized Wesley…

Can you imagine yourself hooked up to that machine? I knew, in my heart, that if I chose to view sexually explicit content, I would be sucking years from my life. I would be both Count Rugen (the perpetrator) and Wesley (the victim).

This is not a scientific explanation, it’s a testimony. This mental image helped me.

But last weekend, as I walked around the infant area in the amusement park, longing to be the size of my 2-year-old boy again, I realized something. Where I thought that years were being sucked away from my future, they really had been sucked away from my past. From my childhood.

The abuse I experienced, coupled with my own poor choices, decimated my childhood. And right then and there, I wanted it back.

How do you get your childhood back?

When I was a child, I had heard the phrase “get in touch with your inner child” being used by the big people. I always thought it was a joke – put on some rollerblades and a helmet and connect with your inner child. Whatever.

But today I’m feeling it. I know what the big people were talking about now. But here’s what I also know:

  • Who I am: I’m not a child, I am an adult. It is wholly inappropriate for adults to act like children.
  • Who God is: God is the author of time, and He lives outside of time. My current age is nothing compared to his eternal presence. And if He created time, He created me as well.
  • Where I stand: The only place now where I legitimately can be considered a child is before God.

The only way you can get your childhood back is to go to the only place where you can still be considered a child – before God. There is nowhere else. And you keep going there. And you stay there as long as you can. You are always welcome.

Only God can restore a lost childhood. Let’s accept His gift, and then let’s continue to guard the childhoods of our children.

Is there any way God gave you your childhood back? I’d love to hear it. Let me know in the comments below.