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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Smiles, Hugs and Prayers: Faith in the Courtroom

This post is second of a three-part miniseries based on my jury duty experience.
See part one here
and part three here

As you may know, I spent the last two weeks doing jury duty. It was an amazing learning experience for quite a few reasons.
Yesterday I wrote about the lessons from getting an in-depth look at our justice system. Not surprisingly, God took this opportunity to teach me a few other lessons, too.

The day I found out I was a juror--and what the case was about--I was honestly kind of scared. "Why me? Why did I get chosen? I don't think I can do this!" I discovered, of course, that I could. My husband had some encouragement for me, and so did my mom, when I called to tell her that I was on the jury (although without any other details at that point).

Obviously, my mom said, I was chosen for a reason. God had a purpose for me to be on that jury. There had been 71 potential jurors at the start. 30 were randomly chosen by taking names out of a jar. Then 14 were picked from those 30. Just before we started deliberation, two alternates were dismissed. I ended up on that jury of twelve people.

I was definitely there for a reason. I just didn't know exactly what the reason was. I still don't know for sure. But I started praying right away, "Lord, let me show someone your love through this experience."

One of the defendant's daughters was there with him, to testify and to support her father. Her name is Maria.

I thought, I can at the very least try to bring a little happiness into this woman's life, considering how incredibly difficult her life has been for the last three years. So every now and then, from the juror's box, I'd catch her eye and give her a smile, and she always smiled back. Not a huge gesture, I know, but I wanted to do something.

Yesterday, after everything was over and I was headed out of the courthouse and home, I ran into Maria just outside the courthouse. She threw her arms around me and kept repeating "Thank you, thank you." She said that when she saw me the first day of the trial she liked me right away. (She happens to have a sister just about my age.) I told her that I'd been praying through the whole trial, and that I knew it had turned out the way it had because God had wanted it to turn out that way. She said she and her family had been praying as well, and I said that I would continue to keep her and her family in my prayers. "God bless you," she said, hugging me again, both of us teary.

I don't know what will become of Maria, her father, and their family. I don't know if anything will come of our brief conversation. I do know that it wasn't coincidence that she happened to be outside the door I always left through. I know that it wasn't coincidence that I ended up on this jury. I also know that that one conversation made the whole two weeks' trial (pun intended) absolutely worth it. If sharing the love of Jesus with that one woman, through smiles, hugs, and prayers, was the reason God had me on that jury, then it was worth every minute.

I got to shake her father's hand, not fifteen minutes after the verdict was read and he put his head down on the desk and burst into tears, then looked up at the jury with a red, tear-streaked face that expressed joy and relief that no language barrier can confuse, and told us "thank you."

I'll probably never see Igor Kozlov again, but being a jury for his trial has changed my life. I can't judge anyone one way or another based on their nationality, their appearance, their job, the language they speak. Only God can judge a person because only he sees the hearts of humans. But what I can do is love everyone with the love of Christ, no matter who they are.

A few hours before I was chosen for this jury, I wrote this post. Little did I know how prophetic my own words would be! God doesn't ask us to travel far away to share his love. In this case, all I did was walk across the street and into a courtroom, and I was privileged to share the love of Jesus with people I never would have met otherwise.

Keep your eyes open today. You'll definitely cross paths with someone who needs a little Christ-love in their lives. Maybe all you can give them is a smile, but maybe that's all it will take to make a difference in their life.

(Just in case you were wondering, sympathy wasn't an aspect of my decision-making regarding this trial. I avoided looking at Kozlov as much as I could during the trial. We looked at the straight facts, and there weren't enough solid facts to convict him. But I will say, I'm glad that we made the decision we did. This man is still going to have a tough life, and I'm happy that we made a decision that will make his life a little less hard than it could have been.)

Linking today with Upward Not Inward/Exceptionalistic/The Fontenot Four, Deep Roots at Home, Raising Homemakers, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home

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