Earlier this month I served on jury duty for the first time. Although many people dread being summoned, I have always been mildly intrigued with the judicial system and thought it would be a cool experience to engage in. So it was a mini celebration for me when the blue jury card showed up in the mail at the end of last year.
Going into the courthouse, I had very little idea what to expect. I waited in line with hundreds of other sleepy eyed people early on a Monday morning to go through security, orientation, and then to receive our court assignments. In the afternoon, a court official lead sixty other selected jurors and I to a courtroom for our assigned case. As we walked in, I immediately saw the convicted person in the room too. He was sitting next to his lawyer in handcuffs. They accompanied by a couple of armed guards. It was somewhat uncomfortable, actually, even unsettling as we sat facing the man who some of us would determine his fate. It was hard to look at him; it was hard to look away.
Without disclosing the details, the case I was on was a criminal case. Listening to the judge read off the crimes, it felt a bit like sitting in a real life scene from a trial in Law and Order. I found my eyes drifting often to the defendant to see if I could glean any sense of who he is outside of the charges brought against him. I pray that whether imprisoned or let go at the end of his trial, he finds true freedom for his soul in the transforming love of Jesus who has already died to cover any transgressions he may have committed.
As the day moved forward, we learned that the case was expected to last close to a month between all of the arguments, witness testimonies, and deliberations. I could tangibly feel tension in the pews where we jurors sat. For a lot of us, that meant almost an entire month of unpaid time off from working (save for the $10 a day paid by the county for serving). For me, like may others, the thought of losing an entire month of income brought up a lot of anxiety.
During the “voir dire” process, the judge, the prosecuting lawyer, and the defending lawyer asked us potential jurors lots of questions to slowly whittle down the panel from sixty people to fifteen. The fifteen jurors chosen at the end would then serve on the case until a verdict has been determined.
As person after person gave various excuses for dismissal, I started to feel nervous. Now only forty or so people were left in the selection pool after many had been released on the premise of scheduling conflicts, financial hardship, or bias due to personal experiences related to the charges… and this was all before the lawyers even began the further in depth questioning process.
Sitting in my seat, I felt internal pressure rising as I calculated the money I would lose taking all those days off of work. So I, too, raised my number card and stated that I could not pull off the finances to participate in the trial. I have a feeling the judge pitied me… I was by far the youngest juror in the room, and I’m preparing financially to move across the country soon. I could see something like sympathy in her eyes when I asked for dismissal. And the court released me from the case.
I was relieved, but there was a stirring in my heart that felt… unsettled. On my drive home I talked to God from the privacy of my car and asked why I was doubting my decision to request dismissal. During the thirty minute drive home the answer came to me: at least for those moments in the courtroom, I did not trust God. I did not trust Him to remove me from a situation I perceived I needed to escape. I did not give God an opportunity to be God, to handle the situation His way. Instead, I jumped ahead of His leading without asking Him first if He wanted me to get off the case in the first place. It seems like a little thing, but the implications are huge. How can I faithfully pursue his leading in the big things if I refuse to wait on His voice in these small moments? It was a wake up call to say the least.
And I felt his Spirit ministering to mine, reminding me that if I had been picked to serve on that case, He would have taken care of anything I needed financially and otherwise. I have always been a fiercely independent child. It has taken some pretty sizable trials for God to begin rewiring the parts of me that fear surrendering to His perfect provision and loving intentions toward me. Cliche as it may be, I am learning to “let go and let God”. However that day in court, instead of resting in the truth of His character— provider and good Father—- I allowed myself to be filled with anxiety; I took matters into my own hands in order to get released from the case. Instead, I should have prayerfully waited and trusted God’s will to play out in the choices of the lawyers to either keep or dismiss me. While I was relieved at my dismissal, that feeling of relief was not accompanied by peace because I acted on my own anxiety and not from the will of God which is to trust him in all things.
Driving home, it occurred to me that in hastily trying to get removed from the case, I may have missed something God wanted to teach me in that courtroom, even if it meant being out of work for another day or another month. But in His goodness, God still taught me a lot through the experience of jury duty. He revealed yet another layer in my soul that clings to the security of things other than to Him. In this case, money. Slowly, very slowly, and gently, He is teaching me another way to live. One that sometimes feels financially riskier, but it is so much more secure in the safety of His love. In the spirit of practicing this new way, I even took a purposeful day off of work last week to spend quality time with my dad rock climbing 🙂
Remaining in the fold of the Father’s provision is the most secure place I can ever reside. He can provide for me better than I could ever provide for myself.
Show me how to trust you fully. How to take matters out of my own hands and place them into yours. You say you work all things for the good of those who love you, and I trust you with the outcomes of my life as I surrender the pieces to you. You are the safest place. May I never stifle your work by taking things into my own hands and running ahead of your leading. I love you and I’m sorry for all the times I choose not to believe in the goodness of your character. Thank your for your forgiveness that never runs out and for your grace which covers over the places where I lack. Lead me today into a greater dependence on you as I learn to walk into all you have for me.