And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
-Luke 17:1-4

Joseph, Ginny, and I visited Asher today. I think if we didn’t have the baggage and years, literally, of broken promises we might call the visit good. Really good.

Asher was engaged, willing to ask questions and hold the conversation on topics that included us, and appeared to thoroughly enjoy our presence. He spoke openly about missing us and even shared that when we are gone he feels like he has a hole in his heart until he sees us again.

He also initiated an apology to both Joseph and Ginny.

To Joseph, he spoke about their past relationship and the way he acted in ways that significantly hurt their ability to connect and grow together. He recognized that he treated his father with disrespect and that his attitude was directly responsible for many of the difficulties between the two. He said he was sorry and then told Joseph about how much he wants to right their relationship. When he finished speaking, he paused and then boldly asked if he could have a hug. When Joseph popped out of his chair and said, “Of course!” Asher also jumped from his seat and the two embraced. Joseph reminded him of how much he loved him and wanted to have a healthy relationship. He reminded his son that his love was not predicated upon Asher’s behavior but upon his position by birth – something Asher had no control over. When they parted, Asher was rubbing tears out of his eyes, and I saw Joseph’s face filled with tenderness.

Later, Asher initiated an apology to Ginny. He acknowledged the ways his unwillingness to respect and submit to authority caused him to be hostile and caustic to his older sisters when his father and I were out of the house. He recounted specific ways that he knew were particularly difficult for the girls to handle and accepted responsibility for how they hurt Savannah and Ginny. Ginny, always warm and ready for friendship, gave him a hug and gladly forgave him.

Asher appeared genuine.

The trouble is that Asher is a master manipulator. He has repeatedly convinced us that his attitudes and actions are other than they appear. He made a fool of us through years of systematic denial and deflection. He also walked out behaviors that appeared healthy and release-ready for months before the truth was revealed. There is a reason his progress letter for the past year states that the time remaining in program is approximately 3 months depending on progress. I don’t think it takes a math genius to recognize that a year is plenty of time to manage something that requires only 3 months. Clearly, we have other things going on.

But God…

I’ve written so many times about the power of those two words.

Genesis 8:1
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.
Genesis 50:20
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
1 Samuel 23:14
David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.
1 Kings 5:4
But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side, and there is no adversary or disaster.
Nehemiah 9:17
They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them.
Psalm 49:15
But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.
Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Isaiah 40:8
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.
Jonah 2:6
To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.
Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.
John 1:18
No one has ever seen Godbut God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Acts 2:24
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Acts 3:15
You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
Acts 5:39
But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.
Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:9
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.
1 Corinthians 1:27
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Our Savior is in the business of turning things upside down and proving that His powerful hand is not controlled by man’s assumptions nor his abilities. I’ve needed this reminder so many times during the past 32 months. I clung to it with desperation when my faith was resting on nothing but a confidence that somehow But God would apply to my family, too.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the suspicion and questioning that might accompany a truly miraculous work of Christ. How do I determine if Asher is sincere? What test do I use to measure his authenticity? The parable of the prodigal son stops before we see the full restoration of the son’s relationship to his father. I want to flip the page on the narrative and find out how the father trusted that the son was legit. How long did it take before the father knew, in his bones, that the son was truly home for the right reasons? How willing was the son to continue accepting that his past actions might impact his present reality?

I now find myself clinging to new verses – ones that I never imagined I would need in this situation. Luke 17:4 tells me that I must forgive when my brother (son) repents seven times in a day. I must forgive Asher. I must leave room for his genuine transformation. I cannot hold fast to a promise that God can work mightily in my situation and then refuse to believe that He did work mightily in my situation. I have no idea what this new season will be like. I don’t know what the path forward is. I only know that Asher, in ways we’ve never before seen, continues to move in a positive direction that speaks to all of our concerns. May it be sincere.