Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,
“Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
-1 Peter 3:8-17 (NIV)
The 911 dispatcher at our small, sheriff’s office received their second phone call in just as many days regarding a juvenile delinquent who was out of his home though presumably on house arrest.
The juvenile was Asher. The caller was one of our neighbors.
We went out for a family walk on Tuesday and one of our neighbors was enraged to see Asher acting as though he was free to stroll around on a public road. The neighbor called 911 – not the sheriff’s department or juvenile corrections but the number reserved for life and death emergencies – to report the situation.
The following day, Nathan was out riding his bike with Hope and dispatch received the second call. This neighbor didn’t even know the difference between my 16-year old son and my 10-year old son but assumed it was a registered sex offender being given unsupervised license to engage with unsuspecting minors.
Ms. Alberts called me last night only a few hours after a house check that she made in person. The visit was awkward at points and continues to underline our suspicions that she is not ready to give Asher a fair shake at making a fresh start without copious amounts of proof. Interestingly, it is the sexual offense that has her so bound up while everyone at home is far more concerned about his defiance and obstinacy rearing their ugly heads. I can’t guarantee that nothing will happen (just like I couldn’t guarantee that before stuff happened). But my children are so much more equipped and prepared to address the issues that allowed the abuse to begin that even if Asher were to try anything, I highly doubt his success rate.
During her visit yesterday, she noticed that Asher and Nathan were both shirtless in the backyard while the family was enjoying the sunshine and sprinklers. She commented that we needed to avoid every possible question of impropriety and hinted that we were being watched very carefully by our neighbors. At the time, I only assumed she meant it generally though I didn’t question the validity for a second.* Our small street blew up when Asher was taken away and we remained a juicy piece of gossip for some time. After my children received unkind statements from other children, we banned them from going in the front yard without one of us to watch. It is probably the reason Asher and Nathan were confused with one another. Most of my neighbors don’t even know what my children look like.
So, when Ms. Alberts received the second call, she decided to alert me.
Thankfully, she advocated for Asher and told the caller that Asher was not a registered sex offender and that he had every right to walk on a public roadway. She explained that he is not under house arrest and earned his freedom through three years of working a difficult rehabilitation program. She clarified that the community did not deserve nor need notification of his release when he asked why our neighborhood was not alerted to his homecoming. She explained that Asher is welcome to be with his siblings on a family walk as long as there is an adult present. And she told our neighbor that Asher deserves a second chance (which was nice to hear considering our concerns that she doesn’t wholly believe that herself!).
It was a disheartening phone call and validated the fears we had for the last three years.
We are so excited to be leaving this area and moving into town. And we cannot help but see the goodness of God in setting our feet on this path. Bringing Asher back to this home was good. And I believe there are real benefits for him and his siblings in processing through the initial emotions of his return in this house where so much of the pain occurred. But it is time for us to wipe the dust from our feet and move on.
Two weeks and counting until we are able to say good-bye to at least the geopgraphy of this painful season.
*Corrupt politics and an unhealthy, good-ole-boys club in our small town sheriff’s office produced a detective that believed it appropriate to share the details of Asher’s charges with another family in our area during his investigation.