It’s been an interesting journey the last six weeks. I was called into jury duty, as I am every year, without fail. I typically see this as an unavoidable annoyance that will cost me a few days max and then I’ll get on with my life. This year however, at the end of day three, I found myself raising my right hand and swearing to do my duty as juror #7 while I stood bewildered and wondering what just happened.
As I grappled with the emotions that come with feeling overwhelmed, I couldn’t begin to comprehend how I could cram a full time job in around the edges of Monday-Thursday, 9-5 court hours. It was a weekend marked with ups and downs and lots of thought switching and pep talks. It was interesting because the District Attorney, while questioning me as a potential juror, asked if I could indeed vote guilty if the evidence proved this fact beyond a reasonable doubt, given that I spend my life trying to get people “out of convictions.” When I laughed and said I was offended she was genuinely confused. I then explained that I would never characterize what I spend my life doing as “getting people out of convictions”, but rather walking with people through the consequences of their decisions no matter what that means. We do, I added, advocate for alternatives to incarceration for youth in particular, because research shows that locking kids up is detrimental.
That exchange left with me with lots of conflicted thoughts. As the trial wore on it became more and more difficult to think in terms of black and white, as the law demands. I am a redemption focused girl. Redemption is a word that fuels my life. I need it, you need it, we all need it. The law, however, has no place for redemption.
It was an honor to spend the next five weeks with the eleven other people that comprised the jury. It renewed my belief in a system that is set up to presume innocence and keep an open mind. I spent seven days deliberating with people that were determined to do the hard work of dissecting evidence and looking deeper into the case.
As I struggled with my own emotions around the fact that we did indeed find this person guilty on two of the four felony counts, I also have been able to remind our kids that short-term decisions can have long-term consequences. It has also left me with some deeper thoughts around shame and redemption.
Watching this man, of almost 70, openly weep on the stand because he felt he disappointed those that loved him, was painful. Shame is a powerful emotion. It brought up times in my own life where I have felt shame over my behavior and the fact that I have disappointed those I love most. When left to run rampant in our hearts and minds shame can take us prisoner. It can, in fact, further damage relationships and further alienate us. Shame can cause us to self-destruct, because even sub-consciously we feel it’s what we deserve.
Redemption is a gift. Freely offered. Undeserved. The power of redemption is that it must travel hand in hand with grace and forgiveness. Oddly, redemption is even a gift we can offer ourselves, but seldom do.
Each day we see the results of shame on the faces and in the actions of those around us. What if we become the voice of redemption? Can we see past the black and white of the actions to the humanity of the shamed? Can we give permission for them to forgive themselves and move forward in grace?
Often parents say to me, “I don’t want to tell my children I forgive them because they will think what they did is okay.” In fact I say to you that offering grace and redemption is the most powerful gift you can give your children that will teach them heaps more than black and white discipline. We all make mistakes, we all hurt those we love, we all need mercy and understanding.
At the tail end of this trial I went away for a weekend with girlfriends, friends that I’ve had for 30 years. We laughed, reminisced, cried, confessed, forgave, and celebrated. When I returned, I celebrated 25 years of marriage to an amazing, loving, honoring man. Wow! The faces of redemption were tangible for me when I needed to see them in the world. What a gift to journey with human beings that I can be safe and transparent with, this is what grace looks like to me.
I enjoyed the experience of serving on a jury and I have also learned that while I am quick to offer redemption to others, in my deepest places I am slow to offer it to myself. My new discipline is to forgive Dawn.
I hope that you are giving and experiencing redemption in your life today.