August 21, 2017
All of us have received that official, government looking envelope that has that dreaded communication inside that says you are to be on call for jury duty. Several years ago I received one right in the middle of the summer. The proposed dates were right in the middle of the time Katie and I had plans to visit her sister and family in North Carolina. I filled out the request to be excused and sent it back and was subsequently granted a temporary reprieve. Later that year another notice arrived instructing me that I needed to call in for two weeks for possible service. Having no valid excuse, I called in as instructed and on the second night I received instructions to report the next day, which I did. When I arrived, people were talking about one of the cases that was on the schedule for that day, a fairly high profile case involving “terrorist” activity. I thought to myself, small chance I would end up in that courtroom. I was still drinking my coffee and beginning to read my book when the first group was called, and sure enough my name was called. The group was called into the courtroom in front of a small army of government attorneys and seven defendants with their attorneys. When the judge said this case may take up to three months, I immediately thought, no way, I have too many responsibilities. I asked to be excused, along with a number of others with similar concerns regarding their responsibilities and plans, none of which the judge seemed to be very impressed with. I have to admit my first thoughts were not about serving my country or representing Christ by my service. I could only think of the inconveniences which would dominate my life over the next weeks and possibly months.
When I was in college I chose the prayer of Jabez as one of my life verses. 1 Chronicles 4:10 “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.” I often recite that verse in the mornings, and so the next day God reminded me that He can expand my territory in many ways, including serving on jury duty. I thought of some of the other inconveniences of recent years and how God had used me, even though at first I really didn’t want to be used. I thought of how God has molded my life to conform to His plan over and over again. He also reminded me of how I have often encouraged others to be open to God’s plan, even when it didn’t seem possible or convenient.
So as I wrestled with the responsibility that I have to represent Jesus Christ in whatever I do, I began to realize that maybe God could use me as a juror, even if I really did not want to be one, and even if it was inconvenient. I thought about how we as Christians are supposed to stand out, to shine for the Lord even when it is not convenient. I was ashamed as I thought of my attitude and how I had only thought about my plans and not His. I know my heart’s desire is that I want people to look at me and see Jesus, not someone who is easily annoyed. I want to be an example of how a Christian should fulfill their civic duty, not one who finds an excuse not to serve.
At that moment, I prayed that the Lord would use me if I was called to serve on this jury. I prayed to be His instrument and that I would not waste a day that He has created for His purpose because of my pride and conceit. It’s hard to pray a prayer like that and not understand that even something like jury duty has a greater purpose. I can say today that my attitude has changed to reflect gratitude for our country’s justice system instead of annoyance at how it has intruded into my life. The book I took with me to read that day was A Quiet Strength, the story of Tony Dungy’s life and how God had used him in a mighty way, even thru amazing difficulties and disappointments. The message of the book was right on target with what God was teaching me through the entire process and with the right attitude I was able to receive the message of his testimony.
I may never know what seeds the Lord will plant in others through serving on a jury with a right attitude. I do know however, that He uses those who are willing. My challenge to each of us today is to appreciate how God can use us even when we feel the most exasperation. Maybe God can use us to ease the stress at work, issues with a relative, or a financial situation, or even when we are walking out the door at the end of the day and someone wants to confront us with a “concern.” Maybe we can respond to a not so courteous e-mail with a gracious word that will encourage someone, not further their exasperation or poor attitude. We have so many opportunities each day of our lives through which God can use us to show His grace through our lives, but only when we are focused on His purposes and plans, not our own.
God can use each one of us today if we will let Him. And, who knows? He may even ask you to serve Him at jury duty