I wasn’t picked in the final selection for the jury, and I was so relieved.
When I filled out the form provided at the court asking if there were any types of cases I might find it difficult to be a fair and impartial juror on, I had answered, “Yes.” I thought I might possibly have trouble in a sexual assault case. I understand and value our justice system—being tried by a juror of your peers, being innocent until proven guilty—as invaluable mainstays of our democracy. But I thought it possible that I could be personally triggered in a case like that and that it could impair my judgment. Give me a civil case! Please.
Instead, I was given an additional questionnaire. It told me in the introduction that the case I was being considered as a juror for was a sexual assault case. My heart sank. I inadvertently gasped.
Personal questions followed, which I answered as honestly and briefly as I could.
Then came the call to the court. I was seated in the front row of the jury box and felt a little bit like I was in a movie—an exciting, very important, life-changing-for-somebody movie.
The court room was filled with judge, district attorney, defense attorney, defendant, court reporter, mystery people at other desks, policemen, many other potential jury members, and somber air.
The judge wore a bow tie. I liked that.
The defendant wore a suit and seemed uncomfortable. That was good, too.
I sat still and listened and corralled my thoughts to the truth that I could be an impartial juror. Jurors are important. I want to be a juror. I want to serve. I like being a citizen of the United States. I hope they pick me. I hope they don’t pick me.
After a long morning came a break for lunch and then, based on the answers we provided on our questionnaire, some potential jurors were called back for individual interviews. I was one of them. After walking into the courtroom, filled—did I mention filled?—with the judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the defendant, the court reporter, the mystery other people, and the policemen, I was politely instructed to sit in the jury box and then asked personal questions by a kind judge. Very personal questions.
Jeez friggin’ louise, that was hard.
“Can you tell us more about that?” How much more? My mind raced. What is the bare minimum? Which experience to I tell? How do I generalize? How can I tell you more and not tell you all? How can I tell you more and protect my heart, my heart that feels completely unsafe and unprotected right now?
I did my best.
Then I left and shook for the next hour. I shook inside and had tremors outside. I wanted to run but didn’t know where and couldn’t anyway. Court would reconvene in an hour.
“Jesus, come.” I prayed. “Jesus, catch me. Jesus, I didn’t expect to go back to these experiences today, and I certainly didn’t expect going back to them to trigger such an emotional and physical response. We have dealt with so much together. I thought I was done. Suddenly, I’m not done. Wait. I’m not done?
Okay, then, God. I take this as Your invitation for more healing. I don’t want my past to color my present and affect my perception of others.”
One woman during jury selection had said that since the defendant was arrested, she assumed he was guilty and they now needed to prove to her that he was not. That’s backwards. And in her words, I unwillingly recognized myself. I knew I could wrestle my thoughts and perceptions into being a fair juror. I knew the defendant deserved a fair trial. But I was sad to recognize that controlling my thoughts and perceptions was something I was going to have to work very hard to will myself to do. It wouldn’t be an easy and natural outflow. (Give me a civil case!) Though I could have done it, I think it was a very good thing for everyone that I got excused.
So a scab that I didn’t know was a scab was ripped off, and the work—the healing, the repentance, the honoring (did I mention the healing?)—continues. Yes, God.
The thing is, we just never know what God is going to use in our lives to invite us to pursue deeper healing. In His fierce resolve for our restoration and wholeness, He will use anything and everything. For me, He just snuck up on me through jury duty.
So I pray. Jesus, please bless and reign in that trial. Reign with truth in our justice system. Reign in our Nation. Oh, Father, who reigns above all, reign here. Reign in me.