Saturday, October 14, 2006

And God Used the Bailiff

I got called for jury duty last Tuesday. A big group of names got called first thing in the morning and I was among them. We were ushered into department 5. I was not part of the first 12 called into the jury box; rather, I remained seated in the "audience" chairs at the back of the courtroom. Each time a juror was dismissed by the judge for personal hardship, another name from the audience would be called "at random" which was sort of like the opposite of the lotttery as we all hoped not to be called into the jury box. I spent all day Tuesday in the audience. At 4:35 the jury was still not selected. The judge ordered all of us who had been present all day listening to the questions for potential jurors to come back first thing the next morning.

All day Tuesday I had watched as potential jurors walked out of the jury box, turned in their badge to the bailiff, received proof of being there from the bailiff, and then left the courtroom by themselves. Wednesday was the same. After all the excuses, conflicts, and the premptory challenges by the defense attorney and the district attorney, the "audience" and potential jury pool was twiddled down to just five of us. I was thinking, "Five-to-one odds. Not good."

Seat number four was open and the court clerk announced, "For juror number four, Shenandoah Lynd." I took my seat. The judge wanted to know if I had heard everything the last two days and if I had any answers to the questions they had posed. I disclosed everything. Total honesty. Because the case involved vandalism to a car by a young man, I had to tell them about all my run-ins with the law. I had been arrested three times as a youth. The judge said that this stuff was potentially embarrassing and he gave me the opportunity to go into his chambers for questioning by the defense attorney and DA. I said, "It's not embarrassing for me at all because my identity is not based on this stuff anymore." He said that was commendable and the attorneys began to question me in open court.

Obviously, the attorney for the defendant was worried that I could be fair and she asked, "Since you've turned your life around, would you say that you are thankful to law enforcement for straightening you out?" Do you hold police officers in high esteem? I told her that I never looked at it that way and I look at police officers like I do anybody else. She asked about working with youth at church as a "junior high director" and children as a third grade teacher and she wanted to know if I thought I was good at telling when people were lying. I replied that I didn't have any special sense; instead, I had to listen to all sides of a conflict, wait until the end of the story, and then form an opinion. I came across as very neutral. However, I could see the expressions of the attorneys, the defendant, the judge, and the four people in the audience: they were shocked by all my transgressions. They didn't know what to make of me.

The DA also worried about bias. She asked specific details about what I had done. One of my arrests involved vehicles as did this case. She asked a point-blank question: If the law and the evidence pointed to this defendant being guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, could I find him guilty under the law? She asked, "Could you find him guilty even if you felt sorry for him, even if you thought what he did was no big deal, could you find him guilty or would you let your compassion get the best of you?" I answered in no uncertain terms: "Yes. I could find him guilty." She wanted to know if my encounters with the police were negative. I told her, "No." They were doing their job and they treated me fairly. I even added, "I feel sorry for the people I violated and the police who had to deal with me."

At the break I asked two other jurors if they thought I would be kicked. The two men said they didn't think so because I came off as totally unbiased and even. I told them I thought I would be dismissed. After the break, when it came to another challenge for the defense attorney, she told the judge, "I am happy with the way the jury now stands your honor." With that the judge turned it back to the prosecutor. She responded, "The people would like to excuse juror number four and we thank Mr. Lynd for his service." I was happy as I didn't want a substitute in my room for another three days.

Here's the weird part. As I stepped out of the jury box, the bailiff didn't accept my badge. Instead, he motioned to follow him and he walked out of the courtroom with my proof of service in hand. He hadn't done that for anybody else on either day. I followed him out of the courtroom while jury selection continued behind us. He handed me my receipt of service outside and I handed him my badge.

Then the bailiff spoke in a very animated manner. "So," he inquired, "You're a Christian?"

I said yes.

"Then it's Jesus who changed your life around?"

"Yes," I told him.

He was very excited, "Then why didn't you say that in there?"

I told him I didn't think it was the place. I assured him that when the judge mentioned that my history was embarrassing and I said, "My identity is not based on that, I meant that my identity is solely based on being a Child of Christ."

He averred, "I knew that was exactly what you meant because the Holy Spirit told me so and the Holy Spirit was working in you and I have Him in me also, but why didn't you just say that?"

I replied that I thought saying, "My only identity is that of a child of God and that Jesus Christ turned my life around, would have, in this case, been dishonest because . . . ."

And, he finished my sentence, "You would have been kicked right off the jury."

"Exactly," I confirmed.

His response was, "So what? You've got to say His name so they can hear it. So they can know He changed your life! I knew exactly what you were saying, but those people didn't all have the Holy Spirit in them. They need to know."

I looked at him and had this conviction, "This is God saying this to me."

Just two days earlier, a very good friend of mine, John, had challenged me to be more bold in proclaiming who I followed when at work. He specifically told me that I needed to go to one person in particular and say to them what Jesus would say to them. I had told him I would do it. Just to make sure, God sent me this bailiff and spoke through him.

So, I listened to the bailiff closely. I fought the urge to offer any more excuses and I heard the verse, "For God did not give you a spirit of timidity or fear, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline" (1 Tim 1:7) and I just said: "You know what, you're my brother, God is speaking to you through me right now and I need to listen to what you are saying. Next time I will do that. I will do that more."

We shook hands, exchanged names, and he said, "God bless you, brother."

I've been thinking about that bailiff and how God has had this common theme come out to me this week: be bolder. As I write this post I am thinking about Jesus's words to his disciples: "go and make disciples and be my witnesses" and yet I think, "Man, I'm not good at that. That's difficult." I'm sitting here typing this and even the song playing in the background is echoing the challenge for me. John Mellencamp is singing:

Your life is now
Your life is now
Your life is now
In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now

Are those the same words of the bailiff? Aren't those the same words from my friend, John? Aren't those the same nudging of the Holy Spirt?

The good news is that on Friday I actually took a step in the right direction. I stepped into the light at work. I told a friend of mine there that my words and actions at work are often a betrayal of who I say I want to be. This is a friend I had never spoke about religion with and I somehow had the courage to say, "I call myself a Christian which means I follow Jesus and I have to be Christ-like, but I'm not always doing that at work." Now that that cat is out of the bag, it shouldn't be so easy to act in a manner that is inconsistent with my espoused beliefs. I feel a renewed hope about what God can do through me if I could just listen to the bailiff.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only through surrendering your pride could you have HEARD God, the bailiff and your friend John.
Speaking with another friend this morning, I am convinced pride (you can break it down further) is the sin which God will stop at nothing to conquer,eliminate,tear out of us.
Pride can be so subtle! Unless, someone knows what to look for and takes the time to point it out,it grows like a malignancy, letting you know its there right before it takes your life.
Keep surrendering.

1:49 PM  
Blogger j-in-co said...


That was an awesome post! Very convicting and encouraging all at the same time. Thanks for sharing it.


7:26 PM  

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