Grocery shopping—going solo—became the focus of my counseling sessions. Somehow my fear of the grocery store was tied to my abusive childhood, and I knew I needed answers. My memories of that time were just bits and pieces, but they all involved the family that lived next door to us. The house next door, that horrible place where hurtful things had happened to me, was at the core of my phobia. But all I could remember was that my mother had dropped me off with the neighbors because my brother was terribly sick and had to go to the hospital.
My counselor suggested that I find old photos of myself, taken around the time that the abuse happened. I was able to find two pictures; I liked one but I hated the other. The photo of the younger me was cute, but the picture of the older me gave me strange, disquieting feelings. My counselor also wanted me to sketch whatever I could remember from that time period that pertained to the grocery store. It took me a week, but finally I was able to draw a couple of pictures. One drawing depicted a happy mom (my mom) and a smiling baby (my brother?) having a fun outing in the produce section of a bright, colorful grocery store. But the other drawing showed only a sad little girl (me) crying in the parking lot outside the store. I decided to visit my mother so that maybe she could shed some light on what those sketches really meant.
I made a weekend trip to my mom’s, hoping for an explanation of this mystery. I was very surprised by what she told me. She told me that my two drawings probably represented memories from our two different homes while we lived in that city. While we lived in the first home, my mom babysat, and one of our favorite pastimes was grocery shopping, especially in the produce department. That explained my cheerful, happy drawing. However, after we moved to our second home, next-door to the house where my molestation took place, my mom would occasionally drop me off with the neighbors for a play-date while she ran errands. I was dumbfounded. All my life, I thought Mom had left me next-door because of an emergency, not for a play-date. The little girl in me must have made up the story about why my mother had left me with the neighbors because it was the only way I could cope with the trauma of what had happened to me there. As it turns out, the neighbors would also take me to the grocery store while I was in their care. No happy memories there.
My weekend with Mom, discovering the errors and filling the gaps of some of my memories, was a very emotional time for both of us. She never knew about the abuse while it was going on, but she shared with me that weekend that she soon stopped taking me next-door for visits because she started having some vaguely bad feelings about the family. And then we moved to a new house in a new city. That is where my childhood memories begin, with the new house. I was eight years old, but I have no clear memories of any time before then. While my mom and I fellowshipped that weekend, we cried and we worked through our feelings and we found closure. She even promised me—promised the hurting little girl in me—that I would never have to go to that house again. Never. I am safe.
Psalm 91:1-2 has always been a favorite promise of mine. It says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (NIV). Yes, now I can rest in the safety of my God. I can trust Him. I can go to the grocery store and not be afraid because He is my refuge.
How about you? Is there some phobia that seems strange and unbelievable, yet is holding you back in life? Do not fear; instead, rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Just His shadow is enough to help you make it through your trying time! Then you, too, can say with confidence, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Come with me. Let’s rest in His shadow. Let’s move away from that phobia and live free from fear because we can trust God to help us. Let’s dwell with Him in His shelter today.
Blessings – Lisa