Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
-Hebrews 13:17 (NIV)

Today, Joseph and I met with Asher for another staffing. We dread these days. They are long and wearying and nearly every time we think we are making some progress, staffing cuts our legs out from underneath us. This time felt no different though we reminded ourselves that perhaps it is. God alone knows.

Asher is showing progress in his relationship with us. He consistently seeks to invest in us during our visits. There is a marked change in his behavior and attitude upon our arrival and departure, which is encouraging even given the awkwardness of family visits. After all, how much can you truly connect with someone while relative strangers are required to listen in on your entire conversation? But there are still some ugly clouds on the horizon.

The largest is Asher’s power struggle with his core teacher. 

Now, to be entirely transparent, I think would have a power struggle with Miss Ghalleger if she were my core teacher. She is blunt, lacks a sense of humor, and was described by a colleague as “a bag of hammers.” Ouch. Additionally, she did not first work at JCF as a “lineman.” (The term used to describe the numerous men and women whose sole responsibility is to provide 24/7 surveillance and keep all detainees in check with the rehabilitation program’s expectations. They serve in 6-hour shifts and provide their group with an invaluable investment of time-intensive guidance. These are the front-line soldiers who are assigned to a specific group and usually serve that cottage for several years. Most of the effective administrators and group leaders at JCF put their time in as a lineman.) As a result, after two years at JCF, she still struggles to truly understand her role as a teacher but more importantly, as a rehabilitationist. Education is important and I’m glad Asher is staying on track for graduation. However, far more important than Algebra 1B is the transformation that can only occur when adults are willing to address issues regardless of how that process may impact their day’s plan.

None of this excuses Asher’s behavior.

Last week, Miss Ghalleger pointed out an issue with Asher’s work and he became defensive. She sharply admonished him and he turned sullen. In the moment, he maintained an appropriate exterior but was quietly fuming. The following day, he vented to another leader in an unproductive manner and it became evident that he had no intention of growing through the experience. His was unwilling to acknowledge any areas that might require improvement on his behalf and resorted to immature name-calling. His tempter tantrum was entirely out of line and it took the better part of a day and multiple leaders to get him back to a rational mindset.

That, by itself, could be waved off as a bad day. We have all barked at someone who didn’t deserve our diatribe. But Asher compounded the problem when he minimized his actions and, like dozens of times in our own home, tried to redirect the focus of attention onto a positive note rather than an accountable one. There is a distinct difference.

So, during staffing, we heard the same thing we hear nearly every month. “This month had some ups and downs. I had a few struggles but overall I’m working to get better.” That phrase has been uttered in the face of tremendously inappropriate conduct, during months of utter tedium due to his low motivation, when he hasn’t seen us since the last staffing because he refused to submit visitation passes, and when it was an ordinary month with average progress. He is forever trying to minimize the ways he blew it and cover it all in the general idea that we all struggle but we’re working to get better.

Struggling to be a better person and spending the better part of a day in defiance of every authority figure that speaks to you are two different things! Struggling to stay motivated and refusing to do any of your rehabilitation work to spite us are two different things! Struggling to understand the importance of an education and throwing a temper-tantrum because your teacher refuses to accept half-baked classwork are two different things!

We see Asher moving in a positive direction with his willingness and, at times, desire to take personal accountability for the abuse he inflicted upon his siblings. But the deeper character flaw that allowed him to carry on for so long remains: he refuses to accept the full weight of his consequences. Asher must learn to submit to the authorities placed over him and stop minimizing his poor choices when he decides to oppose those same authorities. I view this as a key component to Asher’s ultimate rehabilitation, and I’m praying that he is finally strong enough to address it.