I sit interning in court. Criminal court. I sit in my corner, shadow to the official court reporter. My interning stretches over the course of many days. I watch. I observe. I study faces, voices, and mannerisms. And I write along with the official reporter and keep up as best I can.
I sit in a murder trial. A man on drugs shoots his wife -- his highschool sweetheart -- seven times in close proximity with a shotgun. The medical examiner says that in his 17 years, he's not seen a body shot up so badly. I see gory pictures and handle evidence. I tote the murder weapon around from office to courtroom often through the day (one of the duties of court reporter is to be responsible for the evidence). I hear the tearful testimony of both defendant and family.
I watch the faces of the jurors during the testimony. This, here, is serious business. Not a smirk or smile out of the 12; there is a time for mirth, but this is not it. The severity of where life can lead chases any levity from the room. This, this is serious business. Life. Death. Justice. It's all at stake here.
For several days the jurors set aside everything else. Time is stopped and these men and women stop their lives and are reminded of the things that go on in this old world while the rest of of live, laugh, enjoy our families, and drive around town to drink coffee, go to work, and stop at the grocery store. There is none of that here. Someone's liberty is a stake. Great harm was done to a victim and their family, and justice must be had. These men and women must decide what justice is for this case; every jury for every case; every judge in every courtroom.
I watch young men who start by keeping wrong company -- Dad's out the picture, Mom is working to support the family -- and end up getting in serious trouble. Young men in orange and handcuffs, trembling before a righteous judge's stern brow. I hear stories of abuse; abusers who grow up to abuse and get 45 years in prison. I watch a young man who under the unfluence stole a car; and in doing so, kidnapped five children .
I hear the10-year-old kidnapped child's testimony. I hear his mother's tearful testimony and about the nightmares the son still has nightly. I hear the testimony from the kidnapper and the kidnapper's mother. He doesn't remember any of it; he'd drained his girlfriend's stash of liquor and didn't remember any of the hijack. He's been struggling through a deep, dark abyss of depression, suicide, and behavioral issues since an abusive father was removed from his life. In and out of metal health hospitals for a few days here and a few days there, not enough money for the medication he needs. I hear his mother's testimony and her hurt for the victims of her son's crime, and I hear a world of hurt in her own situation. Heartbreaking, all of it. The judge does not know the right thing to do in this situation and determines to put off his ruling in order to have time to think.
The testimony of the father whose son got in wrong company and ran over and injured a man while robbing a beer truck, pleading for probation rather than prison for his otherwise well-behaved son who volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, whose mother is a kindergarten teacher. I see this handsome clean-cut young man sob and wipe his nose with his tie. He was different than the run-of-the-mill probation seekers I've seen in that courtroom. I watch him breathe a sigh of relief when the judge gives him eight years of probation.
I hear the tearful testimony of the sister of another defendant, both she and her brother sexually abused as children... the brother growing up to horrifically abuse another. I hear her tearful testimony and in the midst of her tears and testimony about old, dark secrets finally coming to light, I hear her share about the Light of the world. The abuse she suffered had turned her promiscuous, into a deep dark spiral of substance abuse. Until she found the Light of the world, that is. God saved her, rescued her; some of her family in close step behind. All this Light from from the witness stand from this tearful, beautiful young woman who's been drug to the very gates of hell by Satan's chains; and who found the key of Jesus who unlocked the chains. Her brother got 45 years of prison. Perhaps there -- the best place for him for many years, I believe -- he will find the God of his Light-bearing sister, and the God of mine.
I get into my car, and do what I've wanted to do so many times throughout the day: I put my head on my steering wheel, and I want to weep. There can be nothing other than a straight face during such proceedings by a court reporter, certainly there must be no weeping intern. I have to wait until I'm alone to process.
In the midst of all our comings and goings, in every criminal courtroom in our cities there lies, in living color, the great sea of the utter helplessness and need of humanity. The need for Christ and His power, His love, His light, and the Fatherhood of Almighty God. This great need emerges in all sorts of horrific and heartbreaking forms. The pain of its vastness and deep sadness weighs so heavy on my heart that all I can do is choke out, "Come quickly Lord Jesus."
How did I get to be so blessed? Why is it that I am so blessed to have a dad who is involved in my life, a mom who is always there, and sisters whom I love dearly? Truly, I have no problems in comparison to this vast sea of hurt.
The needs are so great that I buckle under the heaviness. In few other places is the reality of choices so apparent; the reality of life, death, liberty, justice, mercy, and second chances that sometimes really do turn a life around. Criminal court is one of the many places to feel utterly helpless to meet needs. It's one of the best places to sit and pray. To sit and to be reminded of the deep depths of living hell and darkness that a life without Christ will plunge one. Any last one of us.
This, is real life; this is where it's found. From this pain and this reality we can learn how to live our own lives; and, perhaps, understand and feel the Father's heart just a little more keenly.
" He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count
slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should
perish, but that all should come to repentance."
-II Peter 3:9