"We the jury find the defendant, ______, guilty....."
I thought jury duty was going to be a fun week of catching up on my reading, meeting nice people and sitting in a big, boring room.
I happened to sit down next to Mobile's very own Elvis impersonator on Monday morning. Considering he petitioned the judge to be let off of jury duty because he didn't have a sound mind (and the judge actually let him off), he may have thought that he was Elvis Presley. Either way, my experience with the Elvis-like man was a good start to what was going to be a good week. On the other side of me was a nice, older gentleman who helped me find an outlet to charge my Kindle. Indeed- a good start to a good week, or Good Times, as the Elvis album was titled.
While last week was a good week, it turned out to be a really tough one.
I was the fourth person to be a put on a panel and the third person they called to go in juror selection. I was the second person to be put on a jury. I love getting picked second - it made me feel like the lawyers said, "What an upstanding, fine, young citizen. We think she's smart." It was kind of like getting picked first for the kickball team. I also knew that they were thinking, "Look at that young, tender-hearted worship leader. We bet she'll convict this man."
Starting at 11 am last Monday, lawyers told the story of two 89-year-old people who were beaten to death and almost to death in their home in 2010. Witnesses told us that they went along because they needed more drug money. They told us that a bat was used and showed us pictures of the scene, the autopsy and portraits taken in a studio so that we could recognize the beaten faces. For four days, I watched pure evil explained.
And I tell you what - I was mad. I was mad that there are people who are so broken inside that they feel that theft is a way of life and that murder is the answer to getting caught when breaking into someone's home. I was mad.
I was mad because the light of Christ hasn't been shown to all of these people that I saw testify and admit their crimes. Maybe it has and they haven't seen it - but the fact that they feel as though they must live in the ways that they do, makes me angry.
On the last day of testimony, I got in the car to head home when I heard the previous week's offering song playing on my iPhone.
"Countless second chances we've been given at the cross.
Fragments of brokenness, salvaged by the art of grace.
You craft life from our mistakes.
Black skies of my regrets, outshone by this kindness.
New life dawns over my soul.
Oh Your cross, it changes everything.
There my world begins again with You.
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts.
A second chance is Heaven's heart."
Going into deliberations, I talked to several other people on the jury who loved the Lord. I told them about how hard it was to extend judgement on someone's life and how heavy of a weight it had been on my heart all week. I told them how I had never felt the Lord so near. He had been guiding and helping me all week to stay focused and clear-minded. They told me of similar experiences and then one man said something wonderful. He looked at all of us and said,
"We have to weigh judgement on this man today. We're going to convict him. And then, we'll show him God's grace. We'll forgive him for his sins. We'll forgive his family and show them grace in this hard time. We'll pray for him. We'll judge and give grace. Just because we must judge doesn't mean that we don't get to show grace and mercy in the process."
I had never heard such beautiful words. It reminded me of how great the body of Christ truly is. Even though I had only known this man for a few days, he had spoken the words we all needed to hear that day. After the jury got back from break, I asked them if I could pray with all of them as we continued to deliberate. They all gladly agreed and joined hands. I got to pray with twelve strangers, all on different paths with the Lord.
So I had to read, "We the jury, find the defendant _____, guilty...." but I also learned such valuable lessons about the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit's provision and grace. I got to really understand the meaning of "A second chance is Heaven's heart. Countless second chances we've been given at the cross."
The images won't leave my mind anytime soon and I'll probably have a few more nightmares over the next months, but I walked away understanding more about the Lord and grace than I could have learned anywhere else that week. I also learned just how much of a comforter the Holy Spirit can be and how important it is that we spread the hope and light of Christ everywhere we go, to everyone we see.
On Sept. 29th, we sang:
"All My Fountains" by Chris Tomlin
"Not For a Moment" by Meredith Andrews
"Great Are You Lord" by All Sons and Daughters
"Nothing is Holding Me Back" by Bryan and Katie Torwalt
and "Speak Now Jesus" by Starfield
On October 6th, we kicked off Fall with a home-style feel and sang:
"You Are My Vision" by Rend Collective Experiment
"Nothing But the Blood" by Andy Cherry
"Cornerstone" by Hillsong
"Second Chance" by Rend Collective Experiment
and for Communion, sang again "Nothing is Holding Me Back" by Bryan and Katie Torwalt.
Yesterday, October 13th, we sang:
"Here For You" by Chris Tomlin or Matt Redman
"A Mighty Fortress" by Christy Nockels
"Holy, Holy, Holy (Savior & King)" by Gateway Worship
"Oh How I Need You (Find You)" by All Sons and Daughters
and "Reign in Us" by Starfield.
I don't hope that you have to go through what I went through this week to see God's grace in the way that I saw it, but I do pray that when you encounter evil, your heart is tender enough to be mad that people haven't seen that there is another way - the way that Jesus teaches us to walk. I pray God will give you an opportunity to share His love and light with those people. I pray that God will be as close to you as He was to me during your trying times. And I pray that you always have someone around who loves the Lord, who can remind you to show God's grace at all times - even when you have to declare someone guilty.