The room was hushed and the framed face of an austere judge stared at us, missing nothing. Up front, attorneys whispered and shuffled through papers. Badges flashed and I wished I could remember where I had seen the female investigator before.
She looked so familiar.
Was it at the crime scene?
Or at the hospital during those first terrible hours?
A door at the front of the room opened and a man in orange, his hands and feet shackled, was escorted in. I recognized him immediately, the subject of many photos and news articles.
Suddenly we were all standing as the judge entered and a court officer droned,
“O yea, o yea…”
We were seated and court was in session.
The prosecuting attorney read page after page of documented facts,
the breaking and entering, the stealing of the weapon, the few words that Marcus spoke before the shooting began and his attempt to escape before he was shot,
the squealing of tires as the burglars left the scene.
I remembered the two weeks we spent waiting at the hospital, the long late hours, the unending prayers, the tears, the hard waiting room chairs. The praying for the impossible, and the day the monitors went silent.
The jurors’ chairs sat empty today.
In fact the court room fairly rattled with emptiness, except for a small crowd on each side of the room and the officials up front.
But this day had been two years in coming.
Two years of tears and grief, two years of remembering that fateful sequence of events.
Two years of his family learning to live without Marcus, of letting go, and choosing to rest in God’s plan for one side of the room. Two years of visitation and court hearings and lawyer appointments for the other. Both men’s children now growing up without their father, the one in the grave, the other behind bars.
All because of a “senseless mistake.”
A trigger pulled, a young life snuffed.
We can go over the details again and again, but nothing can undo what was done.
Today he was pleading guilty to all charges to settle for life in prison to avoid the jury and possible death penalty. I stole a glance across the aisle, and wondered who each one was.
I saw their sober faces, carved deep with pain.
It was a heavy day for all of us, but how grim the expressions on the other side of the room…
We’ve been told the defendant has a praying grandmother.
Our prayers have mingled with hers, begging God to soften his heart and bring him to repentance.
That the darkness would give way to light.
That Jesus would shine from eyes now clouded with guilt and sin.
One crime committed on our quiet country road two years ago has impacted so many people. Our sin DOES hurt those around us. The repercussions of these actions live on.
“You are sentenced to life in prison,” the judge looked down at the shackled man, and gave additional years on top of that for additional counts. Her words were final, the handcuffs were for life. As we were ushered out, a wail rose from the other side of the room. Mother, sisters, relatives wept at the verdict. That sound haunts my soul.
The news lately has been covered in bloodshed and anger and racism. Protests and mobs, and shootings. On every side of the globe, the same story is playing out. This group against that one. This color against that. Jealously, anger, murder. The sin from the garden goes on and on, the first murder of all time duplicates itself today, blood stained hands and a defensive “Am I my brother’s keeper?” rings loud in the courtroom even now.
The color of history glows ugly red with abuse. Slavery and anger. People sold as bodies and possessions. I’m ashamed that my great grandfather grew up using racially derogatory words freely, not treasuring the value of these precious people. I am horrified that police officers have all been classed as brutes and beasts. I am devastated at the massive divide between people today, all uniquely created in the image of God. White, black, red or yellow – all lives matter, and all are loved by God.
I’ll admit, since that shooting two houses down from mine two years ago, I’ve seen prejudices in my heart that were hidden to me before. Are my children safe around that person? Am I?
But recently I had a conversation with a friend – a friend whose outward color is not like mine – and he reminded me, “It is wrong to judge a whole race by one man’s sin.”
Truth rings loud and clear, dissolving bias and fear.
It boils down to something much deeper than skin color.
Our hearts are all desperately wicked. We all need a Savior.
Yesterday I got to see grace lived out, and forgiveness chosen in the face of staggering loss.
Marco’s father and mother stood up front in that courtroom and said,
“I forgive you.”
Nothing can bring their son back, and in spite of all the tears, they are choosing life.
MaryAnn stood and looked into the eyes of the man who murdered her husband, and said not only
“I forgive you,” but,
“I’m not angry at you.”
He nodded and accepted it. Though his hands are bound, and the rest of his life will be behind bars, he has been released. Forgiven.
And throughout the courtroom tears flowed as we all felt the power of those words.
We can’t always see it down here on earth. Choosing forgiveness isn’t the easy way, but it is the only right way. And someday we will see it as clearly as we saw those handcuffs yesterday.
I wished we would have been allowed to step across the aisle yesterday. To hold tightly those dear, hurting people, who are losing a son or brother to a life of incarceration.
Today we get to all embrace each other, all of us different and yet all of us the same. We are all valuable, all made in God’s image, all desperately needing forgiveness.
Let’s stretch out our hands to extend forgiveness and love.
Light is stronger than darkness.
Sin crumbles to forgiveness.
Love wins over hate.
It is to this we are called…
(Pictured is Maryann and Landon)