The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
There were many times we were reminded during the days immediately following Asher’s confession that we were not in control. The police told us what would happen to our son. The church told us who would be told. The therapists told us how often our children needed to be seen.
To say Joseph and I walked around in a daze is a gross understatement.
But slowly, as we pushed through the difficult conversations with our children, the church, and the police, we managed to feel a little less out of control. We still relied heavily upon outside counsel and direction, and we clearly had to submit to the court’s decisions, but we were beginning to grasp our situation and participate in it. When Asher’s defense counsel and the public prosecutor both allowed us to weigh in on their final decisions for the disposition, I felt like my feet were back underneath me.
This is our son, and we get to decide a great many things regarding his care.
Feeling more and more in control also grew as we began to read and learn about trauma and its effects. Engaging in conversations with trained professionals about our children’s response to their trauma, and brainstorming ways to care for them, allowed me to engage rather than spectate and fed my conviction that our family would handle this season.
It wouldn’t be easy. And we certainly weren’t going to do it without Jesus. But in the end, our little clan would persevere.
Today I had to acknowledge that a great deal of that confidence was sitting on a chunk of pride.
People may make plans in their minds, but the Lord decides what they will do.
(New Century Version)
The ugly truth is that I knew Asher only offended against his own siblings; it gave me a false sense of security that we could ultimately handle all the particularly gross aspects of his crimes “in-house.” Anyone who knew about our situation did so because of our initiation not because of their right to know. Even when our church leadership chose to disclose Asher’s crimes to a select group of families, we took comfort knowing we weren’t sharing because their children were victims. We were choosing to submit to our leadership out of deference and unity and to show ourselves reasonable at all times.
We were in control.
During our visit, Asher disclosed new memories of participating in voyeurism and exhibitionism with two children in our extended circle. The events were years ago, and his natural tactic of avoidance and shame buried these two experiences deep in his mind. But as he is beginning to allow the steps of his rehabilitation to take effect, the healing is bringing to light deeper areas of shame.
At first, I desperately tried to reframe the situation in my mind. 9-year-old boys sometimes flash one another. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” But Asher was not participating out of innocent curiosity. He used his slightly older age to create a power differential and coerced the other boy into exposing himself. It doesn’t matter that it was for less than 5 seconds. It doesn’t matter that there was no touching. Our son intentionally manipulated his friend into doing something for his own gratification.
There was no reframing available for the second situation. While at a friend’s house, Asher noticed his friend’s older sister getting ready to take a shower and used the opportunity of a door not fully closed to watch her without her knowledge. He readily stole something she was not offering in order to satisfy his own desires. Objectification at its finest.
These behaviors are the heartbeat of victimization. Using a person for your own needs without thought or consideration of them. Objectifying people and then rationalizing the behavior is a core value or belief that Asher must renounce in order to come home. If he doesn’t, he will reoffend.
Which makes these revelations good for our son while simultaneously making them incredibly hard for us.
The good part is that Asher recognizes these actions as wrong. He is confessing them to us, to his leaders, and ultimately to law enforcement. He is not rationalizing that they aren’t that big of a deal or that he was so much younger when they occurred that they don’t pertain to his current situation. He is not trying to avoid them. He is facing the truth that he did these things for selfish reasons and that motivation, alone, makes them wrong.
The hard part is that we have a moral duty to engage with these two families and share with them what Asher did. We no longer have control over this situation. There are now people involved who own part of this story and can make of it what they will. They can press charges. They can share without discretion. They can blame us. They can do anything – because we can’t control them.
I can’t control this.
Suddenly my faith in the goodness of God must be the bedrock for everything. Nothing else will carry me. I can’t hide behind a lie that says, “At least Asher didn’t hurt anyone outside of our family.” I can’t force the situation to be something it is not, which means I can’t preach to my son the power and healing available through bringing things into the light and then refuse to do the same.
Just a few verses before Psalm 16:9 it reads:
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
When a man’s ways please the Lord,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
So, I pray that God is pleased with Asher’s heart to choose confession. I pray Asher is beginning to fear the Lord and recognizes that he must turn away from all his evil ways in order to be healed. I pray that our efforts to connect with these two families are pleasing to God and that regardless of how they feel, Christ will bring peace between us. And lastly, I pray that as I continue to walk forward on the path my mind selected, I remain humble and teachable so I softly yield to the greater design that Jesus has upon me.