Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And Truth Wins Out

Jury duty! The summons appeared in the mail several weeks ago, this privilege to fulfill my role as a citizen and a member of the community. It was a gross inconvenience, but it was also a testament to my constitutional rights. I was called to serve my fellow man as a member of a jury of peers and charged with the responsibility to help determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, the truth of whatever current situation was being brought before the court.

I am an experienced juror. With every previous summons, I have won the unenviable position of serving as one of the twelve in the box. In retrospect, I think I bring it upon myself. I go into the courtroom hoping I won’t have to decide whether an injured woman deserves a substantial monetary reward or a young many should be punished by years in prison, but then the questioning begins.

I have been coached on how to answer the lawyer’s questions in such a way he will conclude I am an unstable fanatic whose presence will not serve the cause of justice. But these most dishonorable intentions evaporate in the bright light of my opportunity to shine. The first question flips my ‘people pleaser’ switch. Suddenly I want the questioner to like me. I want his opposing lawyer to approve of me as well. I want everyone in the courtroom to see me the way I see myself—a highly intelligent, reasonable person who embodies the wisdom of Solomon and the mercy of Mother Theresa in one incongruous but jury eligible package.

Ah, the perils of pride and pretention. As the victim of my insatiable need for affirmation, I have suffered through countless hours in deliberation rooms eating lukewarm meals in Styrofoam containers transported from the bailiff’s favorite diner. A fitting punishment for my arrogance.

Yesterday was my first exception. I wish I could proclaim I had conquered the old self, maintained a truthful, but humble, posture and been rejected from the jury for being too spiritual and grace oriented to make the decisive vote that would be needed. The opportunity to present myself in this way never presented itself. After a peaceful day of waiting that included hours of work related reading in the library and a pleasant lunch with a friend, I was dismissed for the week because my panel wasn’t needed.

I tried to explain to someone why I was relieved to be released (beyond the inconvenience of having a busy week hijacked by the legal system). I asserted it is difficult to make a decision that will have lasting consequences for the people who are in court. I emphasized the weight of determining a verdict beyond a reasonable doubt and how little I like to judge.

As soon as I said it, I knew it was a lie—this claim that I dislike to judge. An army of critical thoughts marching through my head at regular intervals prove I am more prone to assess than to accept. My attempts to deny them entry are embarrassingly weak. I am partial to my own opinions and as I sometimes say, “If there were a better way to do that, I would already be doing it.” By implication, when I affirm my own ways, I place myself in the role of being the supreme evaluator of others.

With this summons I never entered a courtroom, but the truth won out nevertheless. I was given a reprieve from sitting on a jury of my peers. I didn’t hear the facts of another’s case and have to wrestle with the consequences of my decision.

The case I heard yesterday was tried within my mind. The truth of my own sin nature was proven beyond a reasonable doubt.