I am not a good liar. Ironically, dealing with the ongoing fallout of our situation has made me better at it.
I have seven children five of whom are girls. When we are out and about our gender imbalance is striking. Comments such as, “Wow! Only one son?!” are incredibly commonplace. Or when Nathan shares that he has five sisters and is innocently asked whether it is hard being the only boy. And because we are a large family, people lose track of our numbers. They overhear a conversation where I talk about my seven kiddos and they start testing their memory. “Let’s see… I know they have one in Africa, and then their daughter who sings. Of course, Nathan and his little sister – oh, what’s her name – Hope! Now, that leaves three more. So, Georgia and… and… ah! Olivia. One, two, three, four, five, six… huh, who am I missing?”
It is easy when those questions come from strangers and we can quickly shrug and pass off Asher’s absence. He’s not home. He’s away this weekend. He lives at boarding school. And all three of those answers are a version of the truth. But it becomes challenging when someone who has known you for over two years discovers you have a 15-yr old son. Suddenly there is incredulity and honest curiosity about why he’s never been seen. The hardest is when these families have sons similarly aged and begin rattling off their boys’ names to see if Asher is friends with any of them… assuming, of course, that they must see one another at Sunday School or Youth Group.
Now, I am sure that some of these people have warm, tender hearts and would do nothing but encourage and support us in our current season. To be sure, there are new families that continue to be read into our nightmare in an effort to remain transparent with those whom God places before us. And I never want to allow the enemy room to press me into silence under the false accusation of shame. Asher’s crimes are not mine – neither are they his siblings. However, our decisions to prosecute our son and to also work towards reconciliation were not undertaken lightly or without counsel.
Not everyone believes or understands that.
In fact, not everyone believes that we are innocent in the situation. Our own credibility and biblical “right” to lead within the church were both brought under fire. Thankfully, our senior pastor maintains an unequivocal stance that we are not to blame and our decision to prosecute Asher shows our willingness to adhere to 1 Timothy 3:4. But I digress…
The sad reality is that many people in the faith community are immature, carry heavy baggage from their own pasts, are unfamiliar with the bible, or simply are not true believers. To these people, the ongoing work of Christ’s plan to bring Himself glory through our ugliness seems absurd and even suspect. And while we have a solemn responsibility to give the reason for the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15), I am not called to bear the tenderest parts of my soul to those who may ridicule or scoff.
So, we will continue to live a life that appears as though we only have one son. We will hang our family portrait on the wall without Asher. We may allow strangers to believe Nathan has only sisters. And to those who learn of Asher’s existence, we will simply state that he has made choices that removed him from our home for a time of necessary rehabilitation. Period.
When we walk through trials it is imperative that we allow others the intimacy necessary to share our burdens. But we must avoid the mistake that confuses the vulnerability of transparency with its counterfeit called exposure.