This post appeared on the "Time Out for Women" Blog over at Deseret Book. I just found it so profound! I hope you enjoy this!
Tomorrow I will blog about my now 9 year old girl! Can you believe Miss Laura is 9?
Mercy in the Court
by Laurel Christensen
November 14, 2008
I'm not sure at what point it's appropriate to admit you have a criminal record. As a single girl, it's a quandry. Do I share it on the first date or on the 5th wedding anniversary? I'm not sure.
I got a little speeding ticket in the city last winter and was called in to court. I was given the option to sign an abeyance which allows you to keep the little traffic mishap off your record. In return for the court's kindness, you commit to not get another ticket in 6 months.
Apparently, when you sign an abeyance, they take it kind of seriously. And apparently if you violate that abeyance (i.e. if you get a ticket within 6 months after you committed not to), you have to officially appear before the judge.
I don't know what I was thinking...that it would be a casual gathering of citizens eating cookies and having punch? Shooting the breeze with the local elected judge? I walked into the courtroom and saw before my very eyes a few guys...in jail uniforms...with shackles...actual shackles. Standing next to them were two armed police officers.
I kind of wanted to whisper, "I'm sorry but I think I'm in the wrong place. I'm just the idiot who didn't pay attention to the speed limit. Where's the room for people like me?"
An older gentleman came and sat by me. He appeared to be down on his luck, but smiled and tried to make me feel comfortable.
Said he, "Well, I hope the judge is in a good mood."
"Is he sometimes not?"
"Should I be worried?"
"What are you in here for?" (What am I "in here" for? Isn't that what you say to someone once they are officially in the slammer?)
The judge comes in and proceeds to explain the various classes of misdemeanors and then I hear him say that my class (class "B") can carry up to a maximum $1000 fine and/or 180 days in jail.
I look around to see if anyone else is freaked out by this news. No one is.
The judge begins with the guys in the shackles. And it's some serious stuff. One of the guys iis being sent back to jail. The other two have trial dates rescheduled. I couldn't help but ask "Where am I? How did I get here?!"
Then my older gentleman friend gets called up.
His story is so sad. He tells the judge he has a drinking job but pleads with the judge to not send him to jail..."I'm finally back on my feet. I can't lose my job."
He gets 60 days.
The officer walks up behind him and puts handcuffs on. My new friend is being polite and cooperative. The judge reminds him he's been in and out of trouble and he needs to learn his lesson once and for all.
The officer took my friend over to the other "felons" and the old man sits down and starts to cry. It broke my heart and I really wanted to do something but then I realize that I'm still sitting here...I still have to talk to the judge myself.
My name is called and I'll be honest...my heart skips a beat.
I approach the podium. The judge asks if I understand my rights. He reads my charge and asks how I plead.
"Guilty, Your Honor." (WHAT? did those words actually just come out of my mouth? How did I end up here?)
"Is there anything you'd like to say to me before I impose your sentence?" he asks. ("impose my sentence? Where am I? What is this?" Jean Valjean and Les Mis songs start running through my mind.)
"Just that I am so desperately sorry and I can't believe I'm here."
"I'm sure you are. Most people standing where you're standing are."
He didn't know me. I didn't have time to be charming or funny. He didn't know anything about my crazy story and didn't care that I got my 2nd ticket driving to check out the Girls Camp location (I'm SO committed to my calling!). I was just standing there, guilty, in need of some mercy.
We always talk about the "final day of judgment" that will happen for each of us someday. And on that day there will be a final accounting of our lives. But, I have to tell you that my day in court made my "day of judgment" less about "some day" and more about "today".
It occurred to me as I stood there waiting for my fate to be determined that EVERY DAY I have the opportunity to kneel before my Maker, in the name of He who is worthy to be my Judge but who desires to be my Advocate. Through some miraculous way, He is able to be both. And when I say, "I can't believe I'm here and I'm so desperately sorry", He knows.
And when I kneel, having violated a law, no matter how small, I am in need of mercy. And always, always, always, mercy is extended.
In the only courtroom that really matters, mercy is extended by the Judge who is also our Advocate. And that is the miracle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
(Oh, and just in case you were worried, I didn't spend a night in jail. Apparently the judge was in a good mood.)