Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
-Acts 2:22-23

Algebra uses laws, rules, and formulas to follow a precise path that allows any person to obtain the same results for a given problem regardless of any other factors. This form of math makes no allowances for interpretation. There is only one answer for every unique equation. It doesn’t matter if the problem is written in different languages, in different parts of the world, and solved by people who are opposite in all possible ways. The results will never differ.

There can be a great deal of comfort in formulas. In algebra, for instance, I am certain that when I solve 4x+12=24, x will always be 3. Every time. I don’t need to worry about whether the equation is referring to something specific or simply another problem on a sheet of paper. I can be anywhere in the world and x will still equal 3. I can share this problem and my answer with anyone and know they, too, will reach the exact same conclusion. X can never be another number and still hold true for this equation. Algebra contains no dichotomies.

God created math and in a perfect world, I do believe that our lives will also hold no dichotomies. There will be no angst between our flesh and spirit. No tension between our desires and God’s will. No questions of what is right and good and how internal motivation plays a factor decisions. The perfect justice of God will be delivered and the great love of God free to bless all those who faithfully bear His name.

But life today does not follow algebra’s rules and it is full of dichotomies.

The largest is the very great tragedy that evil men, influenced by Satan himself, took our innocent savior Christ and killed him for their own, selfish purposes. Yet, in acting according to their sinful desires, they carried out the necessary and predestined plan of salvation established before the foundations of the world were ever laid. [Acts 4:27-29 and Revelation 13:8]

I am comforted by this reminder as I struggle to understand what God’s purposes are in allowing victim mediation to follow a course outside of my desire and plan.

Olivia and Asher met for the first time in 33 months this past Friday.

I must first acknowledge that it feels like a miracle for us to even be entertaining reconciliation let alone pursuing it with intentionality. We have a long way to go, but we are solidly taking steps towards reunification. Just four months ago, this was a dream we needed to lay on the altar and allow God to do with it what He deemed best. It appears that He is graciously giving it back to us.

Asher was nervous to the point of visibly shaking while trying to unfold his letter to Olivia. He read it far quicker than we thought best and to our adult ears it felt robotic and forced. However, Olivia was quick to point out that she and Asher both knew the letter quite well and it didn’t feel insincere to her. Once Asher finished, Olivia read her letter and then smiled reassuringly at her brother.

Then it was quiet and painfully awkward.

Earlier that day, Tara shared that her goal for the meeting went something like this:

  • Asher reads his letter
  • Olivia reads her letter
  • Clarifying questions for either Asher or Olivia are asked/answered
  • Asher and Olivia have some time to engage in casual conversation so they may begin the work of normalizing healthy interactions

Tara spoke with Jon an hour before our meeting began and believed that these goals were understood and also accepted by him. But the reality played out quite differently. Every time an awkward moment arouse, Jon filled it with a pointed question towards Asher.

Awkward silence —> How did you feel when you saw Olivia for the first time?
Awkward silence —> Why do you think you struggled for so long to see the value in trying to succeed at JCF?
Awkward silence —> What do you think when you hear your sister say she only wants you to return if you are no longer self-absorbed?
Awkward silence —> Will you be able to prove to your family that you are changed?

At one point, Joseph stopped Jon and asked Olivia if she was comfortable with the amount of time spent on Asher and his emotions. Our 13-year old is a serious internal processor and in the moment, her nervousness and inexperience led her to shrug her shoulders at her father’s question and nod noncommittally that it was fine.

Jon immediately continued.

As soon as Jon felt like Asher had shared enough, he abruptly brought the conversation to a hault to address some administrivia. Once that was accomplished, he announced, “Well, Asher has algebra waiting for him so we need to get going.”

And that was it.

Jon is finding it difficult to accept the dichotomy of a sibling relationship torn apart by abuse but that wants reconciliation. He is unwilling to see Asher and Olivia as anything besides victim and perpetrator. In hindsight, I think much of Jon’s questions were meant to pull out of Asher a more in-depth explanation of the guilt and sorrow he feels over his crimes. But instead of listening to Olivia’s letter, which clearly stated that she has forgiven her brother of the abuse and needs more attention paid to ways Asher can prove his trustworthiness now, Jon can only focus on the past.

We must work with Jon for the two following victim mediations and then for the beginning of family counseling before Asher can pursue his release from JCF. This man, who seems to think that an algebra lesson is a viable competitor to spending a meager 30 minutes in casual conversation upon first contact with a sister after almost 3 years apart is the man who is guiding our son towards reunification.

So this is why it is so important for me to remember that what men sought to do for evil, God destined for good.