Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ – eternal and glorious plans they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.
-1 Peter 5:8-11 The Message Bible

The doldrums are bands surrounding the equator in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans with such severe low pressure that they create a startlingly unique environment. Most notably, they lack anything more than a slight breeze (except when a tremendous squall strikes from out of nowhere and leaves just as quickly as it came) and create leaden skies that obscure the horizon and stars so fully that even seasoned sailors admit to being lost. The combination of these two things spelled disaster for untold numbers of ships spanning thousands of years before the advent of modern propulsion and navigational equipment. Ancient mariners were forced to throw livestock overboard to save drinking water. The tropical humidity mixed with unsanitary quarters lent to wide-spread disease. And the mental battle to stay alert during the days (and more often weeks) of listless floating was no small task.

This is a perfect description of our life.

A few months ago, I shared that Asher startled us with his revelation that he may not want to come home and had never felt truly connected to our family. While we weren’t sure if that was real or trauma and years of defense mechanisms talking, we recognized that we needed to take a significant step back in our involvement with our son. We stopped our casual visits and saw him only for family counseling and staffings. Even then, we scheduled counseling for no closer than every two weeks and called into two of his staffings rather than make the trek to appear in person. We also made an intentional decision to move forward with our life sans our son.

Now, because we are still legally responsible for Asher, and because of the time of year, there’s not a whole lot (besides visitation) that looked outwardly different. For instance, originally, we believed that Asher needed to come home to this house. We didn’t want anyone (least of all our children) believing we were sweeping anything under the rug. If we couldn’t deal with reconciliation in the home where the abuse occurred, then what made us think we could address it effectively in a new home? But as the years pass, and our needs change, we no longer feel bound by that view. That is giving us a freedom to find a new home more centrally located to our daily activities. Selling and moving in the middle of winter, however, feels like a nightmare. And with Cate’s wedding, our usual end-of-year routine was already cattywampus. Nevertheless, in our hearts, we knew we were going in a new direction. There was a distinct sense of movement and purpose that accompanied our thoughts and motivated our decisions.

That decision to cut Asher free felt like we were finally released from the doldrums that held us for so many months – years really. No longer waiting for him to make decisions but driving on our own will is like the difference between ancient ships awaiting that long sought for wind versus modern watercraft powering through, full-steam ahead.

It is heady stuff!

Then we met with Asher and his counselor and apologized. And everything changed.

And unbeknownst to us, we headed straight into another pocket of doldrums.

As I said before, mariners qualify this unique experience as listless calm and directionless wandering. In our situation, the same holds true. We have no idea how exactly victim mediation is being handled or when we will start face-to-face meetings – neither does Asher for that matter. This aimlessness with something so necessary for Asher’s release significantly contributes to our languishment. And with Asher showing perhaps genuine and marked change, we are once again tied to him and the system that holds him. Rather than feeling free to move on without him, we are again compelled to stop and assess our decisions with our son in mind. But bearing him in mind is not the same thing as gaining a clear mark. It is about as helpful as staring into that leaden sky and wondering where on earth the North Star is under all that haze.

Honestly, it’s enough to put even the most ardent watchman to sleep.

In these moments, we rely all the most upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit. His gentle prompting to act or remain still, to speak or remain silent is vital. He bears us up during periods of extraordinary boredom (trust me, there are points when this journey is marked by profound monotony). And He encourages us that we are not running a race in vain.

Eventually, we will travel through this dreary haze and once again see the brilliant sun.

*Original Photograph:
Calm by Gary Felton