Straight From a Dutiful Heart
By Lisa Elliott
Have you ever been called to Jury Duty? I had this dutiful call recently. It is, after all our right and privilege as Canadian citizens. But wouldn’t you agree that it’s a little daunting? It wasn’t so much the task that I found so daunting as it was the fact that the timing of it couldn’t have been worse! It thrust itself upon me at the peak of an exceptionally busy speaking season with several pending engagements in the queue. Regardless, I determined to make my appearance and trust that the Lord would take care of the details one way or another. Besides, what were the chances of my ever being selected?
I arrived to the courthouse promptly—fifteen minutes ahead of the required time. Upon my arrival, my bags were checked and I was frisked for anything I shouldn’t have on my person. I found my way effortlessly to the courtroom where I was relieved to discover that well over one hundred prospective jurors were gathered. The odds of my not being considered were certainly in my favour!
Realizing we could be detained indefinitely, many of us took advantage of the restrooms in the hallway outside. Discussion in the ladies’ room was light-heartedly centred on how none of us had ever won the lottery. And we agreed that neither did we want this to be our lucky day. You know where this is going don’t you?
I entered into the courtroom and sat myself down in a chair immediately inside the big oak doors. How convenient that this chair was available! Once the jury was selected I could make a quick exit and get on with my life. Before too long, a young mother came in with her infant daughter. As she stood, helplessly looking for a place to sit where she could also park her stroller, my heart went out to her. So I graciously offered her my seat and took one in the back row next to a senior gentleman who had witnessed the exchange. I jokingly asked him if he thought I’d be exempt as a result of my courteous gesture. We chuckled to ourselves quietly and entered into easy conversation while we waited for things to get underway.
After being given explicit instruction about how things would unfold, we were informed that the date of our duty would be determined by the judge and may not take place for days or weeks. Phew! That meant that even if I was selected, which of course wasn’t going to happen, I’d have that many more speaking engagements behind me! With that tidbit of assuring consolation, attendance was taken—each of us identified by a number and occupation.
In the case that our number was called we were to promptly rise and walk toward the front of the courtroom, stand before the judge and lawyers, and either be “contended” (accepted) or “challenged” (rejected). That is, unless we had a valid reason to be exempt (I.e. terminal illness, hearing loss, etc.). In which case, we were to approach the bench and request exemption face-to-face with “his Honor”. Why was I feeling like more of a contender with every passing moment?
When the judge took the stand and announced the date of the hearing, my hands began to sweat, realizing it was the same day I was supposed to arrive and speak at a weekend retreat that required several hours of travel to get there. I knew I wouldn’t be able to agree to the terms of a juror without breaking my pre-existing commitment. But I wasn’t going to have to worry about that, right?
I slowed my breathing when I realized that only six of us would be selected. However, my heart accelerated as one-by-one numbers were called and those selected were either challenged or excused with just cause. That’s when the conversation began in my head. If I was called, would the judge accept my reasoning as a just cause? Again, no worries, I wouldn’t have to explain anything to him. Or would I?
There was only one more number to be called. Only a few more minutes and the rest of us would be excused. There was almost a corporate sigh of relief. But why couldn’t I shake this unprecedented feeling of doom that suddenly loomed ominously over me? You know the kind of feeling you sense that something you imagined in your worst nightmare could easily become your reality? That’s the moment when in the middle of my worst nightmare, I woke up—to my number being called! Are you kidding me?
I was more thankful than ever for my backrow seat. I’d need the entire walk down the Green Mile to think of what I would say. How would I convince the judge that I talked for a living? Furthermore, how on earth was I going to talk my way out of my civil responsibility in one in one minute or less?”
My thoughts quickly turned to words that Jesus assured His disciples with whenever they faced the Supreme Court of Justice in their own day and age. “…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matthew 10:16-20). Well, I knew I had to “rest my case” and leave it in the hands of the One who will one day judge all of us at that Great White Throne. And thankfully, in as much as I was the only “contender” to carry on an entire conversation with the judge, I’m relieved to say that after some profound deliberation on his part, I was excused. I restrained myself from jumping atop the oversized desk to hug him. But when all was said and done, didn’t hesitate to praise and thank the One who had given me the words to say at just the right time—and not a second too soon!
Can you think of a time when God, the Holy Spirit, put words in your mouth at just the right time? More so, can you think of a time when grace was extended to you? Why don’t you pause for a moment and consider the day when you will stand before the Judge and give an account for your life. What will you say in that moment?
For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14:10b-12. See also Revelation 20:11-15).
About this Contributor:
Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple and Dancing in the Rain. Additionally, she has written articles for Just Between Us Magazine and devotionals for theStory. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (3 on earth, 1 in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
To book Lisa for a weekend retreat or day conference contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org