What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory-
-Romans 9:22-23

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
-Ephesians 2:1-5

Asher comes home this week.

After meeting with Ms. Alberts and hearing of her grave concerns for Asher’s readiness to leave JCF, we met with Mr. Larkson (Asher’s group leader and the individual most connected to our son). We were understandably weary of the apparent regress in Asher’s program success and needed answers that only Tom could provide.

But before that meeting, I shared my full heart with Joseph. I told him that I wasn’t sure whether Asher may, in fact, be a vessel of wrath spoken of in Romans 9. I cried out with frustration and exhaustion and my heart burned with the uncertainty of it all. I felt desperate at the thought of bringing a possible sociopath home after Ms. Alberts decried the proficiency of JCF’s standards for release qualifications. I reminded my husband that we are not promised Asher’s salvation. Our job is to raise him in the fear and admonition of the Lord. The saving business is between our son and his Maker – that means I don’t have a say in it. (And while it is true that God alone saves, my attitude was not one of humble submission to a Savior who is far more capable than me to determine the hearts of men but rather, one of rage that wanted Asher to be forsaken by Christ as if that would “get him back.” I was in an ugly place, to say the least.)

Thankfully, Joseph was far more grounded than I was in the moment and reminded me that we don’t know what the future holds but we have no reason not to hope. Jesus is good and His heart for us is good. Asher may not be saved and he may never come to salvation, but we are still called to love him and trust that God loves him even more than us.

I also met with an older woman in the faith and shared with her my fear of making the wrong decision regarding Asher’s reunification. She quietly spoke a great piece of wisdom to my heart. She reminded me that even if we make the wrong choice, and Asher is not ready to come home, Jesus will not leave us. He is not going to forsake us because we messed up. She pointed me to the Bible (1 Cor 10:23-31, Rom 14:1-8) and reminded me that our God is far more interested in our heart’s desire to honor Him and bring Him glory rather than worrying over whether a non-sin decision is good or bad.

So, by the time Joseph and I sat down with Tom Larkson, I was at peace and reminded that whatever decision JCF (and by extension we) made, God was with us.

Mr. Larkson began immediately with a statement of his absolute confidence that Asher is ready for release. He shared his professional and personal perspectives on the matter and assured us that our son has grown in real and tangible ways over the past three years and definitely in the last several months. He spoke with Asher’s ability to see past his own desires and pointed out times when he showed an impressive amount of self-restraint during highly-charged situations. Then, while remaining respectful towards Ms. Alberts, he explained why her assessment was not only accurate but detrimental considering how she chose to handle her beliefs. The psycho-sexual report is not supposed to be given to anyone but the clinical director of JCF who, in turn, chooses who is to see it. In our case, for reasons inexplicable, the provider sent it en masse to all parties involved in Asher’s reintegration. This gave Ms. Alberts the chance to read it without a trained professional helping her decipher its contents. Mr. Larkson was also concerned that our probation officer’s quick read-through (the report is over 30 pages long and she could have only been in possession of it for less than an hour before arriving at our home), meant she assumed or misunderstood important aspects of the report. This was especially evident when comparing her judgment against Asher’s release with the actual psychiatrist who administered the evaluation and recommended release. Mr. Larkson also pointed out several areas where questions have scaled answers (have you ever in the past… how often now… when was the last time…). It appears that Ms. Alberts took the first portion of an answer and perhaps skipped over the qualifiers. However, it is those qualifiers where Asher’s release lives. We all know that he committed sexual crimes. His admission that he has engaged in perversity should not be a surprise to any of us. The issue is whether his rehabilitation has effected change. The evaluation repeatedly contended that it has.

As we left, I was encouraged that Asher has made real strides in addressing his harmful and criminal behaviors. And I was reminded of the importance to hold fast to Christ when you feel the ups and downs of your emotions tossing you into frenetic disarray. I still do not know what the plans are that God has for my son. I am still not promised his salvation. I’m not even promised a successful reintegration. But I am promised that we were all once children deserving of wrath, but for those of us who trust upon Christ, we are indeed saved. And saved by grace.

*Photo credit: Alamy.com