I was amazed that the sun still rose the next morning. In my head, I honestly expected that it would not. It was warm and bright and carried such promise. The juxtaposition of it with the state of my own heart caused a physical ache inside of me. Asher was gone.
We learned the previous evening that Asher’s abuser was a boy from our old neighborhood in a different state. It started when he was seven and lasted until he was well beyond 10. Our move was the only thing that made it stop. I watched Joseph’s jaw clench and relax as he desperately tried, just like me, to make sense of this world in which we suddenly found ourselves.
Four of our seven children were the victims of sexual abuse. We didn’t just inform the statistic that 1 in every 6 boys and 1 in every 4 girls will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18 – we were the statistic.
Suddenly things began to fall into place.
Like the time Nathan set Asher’s goldfish on the top of his dresser and watched him die. I remember telling Asher, “He is hurt and he is trying to get back at you, buddy. Can you see that something you are doing is causing him a great deal of pain, and if you don’t address it he is not going to want to have anything to do with you by the time you are moving out of the house?” At the time I had no idea what was going on for Nathan. I knew that Asher was often dismissive and invalidating to his younger brother, but it all seemed to trivial.
Or the way Georgia was incredibly sensitive to the least provocation from her brother. She flew into a near rage when it appeared he was merely teasing with her. The violent temper tantrums and incredibly immature behaviors were getting worse and not better with age.
And even Asher’s behaviors, when viewed with full disclosure, made so much more sense. His little heart was filled with insecurity and pain from such a young age. We couldn’t figure out why he was always willing to allow himself to be treated so poorly by the meanest kid in the group. He seemed drawn to disrespect like a moth to the flame. His personal sense of value and worth were always atrocious. We thought it was because he struggled with reading, but when the reading finally came, the insecurity didn’t end.
“One step at a time,” I told myself.
Joseph had taken Asher with him to work. After the conversation ended the previous night, we made Asher sleep in the guest room across from us so he wouldn’t be downstairs with the others. We didn’t allow him to address his siblings, and in the morning Joseph left before any of the other kids were even awake. I don’t know if that was the right decision or not. Everything we are doing now feels like the largest decision of our life and one misstep will cost us a child’s heart. We are playing against a stacked deck.
I called our pastor and asked if we could meet with him, our children’s pastor, and our lead elder. Then I just cried. I cried so hard and for so long that I didn’t know if I would even be able to make it back to sanity. I cried over the pain of my children’s lost innocence. I cried over the broken dream of raising children untouched by sexual sin. I cried that Asher was going to face the trauma of his own victimization while also facing the consequences of his actions against his siblings. I cried because I was angry that this was happening to me and my family.
But the sun just kept inching upward.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. -Lamentations 3:22-23