Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Maybe things are changing.
When Joseph and I first began this journey, we were relieved that Asher was removed from our home. Our backstory shares that we were not living in a perfect home with a perfect son before the truth was revealed. We immediately longed for reconciliation, but neither of us could fathom how we were ever to get to that point.
I remember telling Joseph that I believed God would miraculously move in our hearts to bring about a softening in us simultaneous to the changes necessary in Asher to qualify him for release. The two primary reasons for this need were:
1. We simply could not go back to living in a home that was wracked with discord and pain. We were unwilling to require Georgia, Olivia, or Nathan to accept their abuser back into our home with a rock-solid peace.
2. Asher has nowhere else to go besides foster care if he is not welcomed back into our home.
We were seeing zero movement in either the direction of our softening or Asher’s necessary change when we decided, along with Asher’s staff leader, to initiate a visit with Savannah, our then-18 year old.
I’m not sure I have the words to express my emotions at seeing my two children reunite after 14 months of absolute separation. It was a foretaste of what I pray will be our story in a future yet to be. Savannah was nervous and almost hid behind Joseph. The first several moments were painfully awkward and neither she nor Asher seemed to know what to do with their hands. But their hug was genuine and the smile they exchanged had a warmth and realness that could not be feigned.
The next few hours flew by. Savannah was preparing to leave the country for almost a year on a mission. This would be the only opportunity she and Asher would get before she returned home, and the unspoken question was heavy on everyone’s minds: Where would Asher be when she came home? But the conversation stayed light and airy. Asher shared about his days and the rehabilitation program. Savannah shared about graduating from high school and preparing to leave.
Our time was drawing to a close when Savannah suddenly blurted out, “I want you to be home before me, ok?”
Asher flushed a little and then nodded his head in agreement.
That was over 4 months ago.
He did make changes in the immediate weeks following the visit. Sadly, like so many times before, they did not last. But something was different. Even as his self-sabotaging behaviors felt utterly familiar, a desperation to get better was surfacing that was entirely new. He spoke often of Savannah during our phone conversations and visits. It was as if he forgot that our home was not made up of only his parents and the revelation that his siblings were still living was waking him from an emotional coma.
2 months after the visit with Savannah, he visited with Ginny for the first time. The two girls could not be more different and each one of them had a closeness with Asher that reflected their individuality. Ginny uses humor to diffuse any tense or awkward moments. She immediately had Asher laughing and remembering long-standing family jokes.
As Ginny’s visit was coming to a close Ginny asked, “So, are you ready to come home yet?”
Asher was taken aback by the bluntness of the question, and his answer was absurd, “I’m still debating it.”
Without missing a beat, Ginny responded, “Yeah, I can understand why you would want to stay here, locked away from your family, eating crap for food, and sleeping in a locked jail cell. Good decision.”
We all laughed, but the question hung in the air long after the conversation moved to good-byes. And it obviously stayed in Asher’s mind because the following month, at his regular staffing appointment, he revisited it and boldly pronounced that he was, in fact, ready to come home.
This is not the first time he has made such a strong assertion. We are nearly at the 19-month mark. That’s 84 weeks with almost that many visits. At least 2/3 of those visits included statements about his readiness to come home. What they did not include was initiation and movement on his part to make it happen.
That is maybe changing.
The past two months saw us listening to amazing reports of progress and initiation during our staffings. Asher is voluntarily pushing himself through the rehabilitation program required for release. His heart appears open to correction in a way wholly missing before now. And a genuine remorse for his conduct has made an appearance at more than a few phone calls and visits.
Now we wait.
And continue to beg God for His mercy.