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juror number 21

Last week I had to report for jury duty.  Having never done it before, I had no idea what to expect. And boy was I caught off guard. The week was full of only criminal trials and they were trying to process 500 of them over the course of the week.

That’s right, 500 CRIMINAL CASES LAST WEEK IN LEE COUNTY, ALABAMA.

IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD.

. . . and when I found that out, it hit me like a ton of bricks. As I tried to wrap my brain around this number.  These people.  This brokenness. I was very heavily reminded of the weight of sin in the world and the awful, awful nature of humanity apart from God.  We are such a dark and broken creature. The heaviness of what I learned was enough to make me have to take a breather and go cry in the bathroom on one of the breaks. This happened right after all of us jurors (there were maybe 45 of us) had to go around the room and say any violent crimes that had been committed against us or our close family members. I almost lost it when 5 or 6 people said that either their child or their parent had been murdered. A son, a mother, a daughter, a father. Killed. Murdered. I hated all the pain in that room.

HATED IT

and then i felt stupid and weak and powerless to do anything to stop it.

It was awful.

I feel a great deal of compassion and empathy for these situations. I also feel some how at fault.  Maybe it’s because these things happened on my watch, in my neighborhood, in my town, to my neighbors, and I didn’t even notice.  A friend recently sent me a Derek Webb song about this. Part of the verse goes:

poverty
is so hard to see
when its only on your tv
or twenty miles across town

This is so true. But what also is true is that God redeems us from the ashes.  He carries our burdens.  He embraces us in our sorrows.  In my own life I have found this to be true.  One year ago I could not have imagined what has transpired over the last 12 months.  The violence, the pain, the tears, the sorrows. God showed me the grace that I needed to keep moving forward each day.  To learn to lean into him.  He also showed me that He has a great redemption plan for this lost and broken world.  For these lost and broken creatures, these PEOPLE.  me.

He also showed me that I can celebrate Him through the pain. Through this path. At Elevation this week, Pastor Steven said it this way, “My joy is not determined by what happens to me, but by what Christ is doing in me and through me.” AND we can rejoice in it because “the greatest sermons we’ll ever preach are in the prisons of our hardships,” as shown by the Apostle Paul in Philippians.  But I still struggle.

I struggle with with releasing pain and people to God.  I think that’s why jury duty was so upsetting last week. I felt somehow responsible.  But really, healing is God’s job. Those were God-sized problems, and God-sized pain. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last year it’s that only God can deal with God-sized things.  I don’t even stand a chance against them.  Only he can heal the hurts of murder, of crime, of relationships, of life and loss.

I have to believe that.

I have to believe that He can heal my heart. Repair my brokenness. Its in my moments of dispair that I am encouraged by scripture. Most days it is my only solace.  Reading this:

3“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 4You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. 5You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. 6You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. 7You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. 8You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” Matthew 5:3-8 (The Message)

over and over and over again.  I keep a copy of it in my pocket even.  It helps me to remember to keep breathing. To be reminded that God is in control.  That He can become more as I become less.  As I experience loss, only then can I be EMBRACED.

The following video (especially the second half) captures so eloquently what I’m trying to communicate here.  Laura is a much more talented story teller than I am and I hope maybe her story will make mine a little more coherent. Thank you Laura for being a willing vehicle whose story and songs reach the nations.