Facebook is my nemesis. I know it doesn’t mean to be, but each day it mocks me with its images. Today was no different. There, in the, “Teeli, here’s a moment from 7 years ago we thought you might like to look back on…” was a picture of my family only a matter of months before Asher’s abuse began and our nightmare, unbeknownst to us, would start.
Savannah was 11. Ginny was 9. Asher was 6. Georgia was 5. Olivia was 2. Nathan was less than 1. Hope wasn’t even conceived.
The picture is during our annual trek to find the perfect Christmas tree in the mountains outside our home. In every picture, Asher is grinning with such complete joy. His innocence and wonder of the world are fully intact. My other children are carefree and happy. All we are concerned about is finding “our” tree and getting home to decorate it! That Facebook picture was the last Thanksgiving where Asher was free from the evil and perversion of sexual abuse.
Just this past Saturday, we took the same trek into the mountains outside our new home. Asher wasn’t with us. What was also missing were the myriad battles and arguments with him over his choices, behaviors, and obnoxious attitudes. The bittersweet truth is that Asher’s absence is terribly difficult on us but it is also good.
It is hard to say exactly when the heartbreak started, because to say it was The Call is a lie. The enemy of our souls had a mark on our son and he was using it to wield an inordinate amount of power in Asher’s life. But we also believe that Asher came to a genuine understanding of Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior at a young age. This reality caused a very real battle to rage inside his small body for years. Towards the end of his time at home, his father and I were at our wits’ end trying to understand how to care for him. He was defiant, belligerent, disrespectful, emotionally cruel, and almost constantly angry. But then he had moments of such intense sanity and insight that the despair lifted, and we believed we were making progress.
But never on big occasions. On those days, Asher always acted in a way to ruin something for someone. Christmas tree hunting was no exception, and that Facebook picture was like a cold cup of water thrown into my face, because I suddenly remembered taking all those pictures and the child that was giving us trouble was 2-year old Olivia. Not Asher. It was so natural that day to recognize the childishness of Olivia. She refused to follow directions. She laid herself on the dirt ground and didn’t get up out of exhaustion from missing her nap. She whined about being hungry, needing to go potty, wanting a drink, and we eventually velcroed a tether (ok, call it what it is – a leash!) to her to stop her from running off – again. She was a terror that day. Not Asher.
In contrast, our oldest son was a bundle of energetic joy. He helped daddy pick the tree. He helped haul the saw. He helped carry the prize back to the van. He smiled and entertained Nathan while I managed Olivia. He was cheerful, tender, and fun. He was a sweet and very ordinary 6-year-old little boy. I remember him wearing his too-big-for-him-but-that-wasn’t-going-to-stop-him-from-wearing-them fatigues that his “big brother” Ryan had given him. He idolized Ryan and those fatigues were everything to his little heart. He looks so happy, and so small, in that picture.
I hate looking at these pictures that Facebook throws into my face. But even more, I hate the idea of forgetting that Asher was once a pleasure to be around. I hate losing the tenderness I feel for that hurting and broken little boy, because right now his calloused, hardened heart makes me sick. I have to believe there is something else under the bravado and fronting that comes so easily to him.
I must let my heart break so it doesn’t grow cold.
Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,
and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.