I had jury service this week.
I don’t like jury service. I NEVER like jury service. I groan when I see the summons. And I groan again when I call and find out that I’m confirmed to appear at the courthouse on whatever day during the week. Oh, I’m prepared to do my duty. The public has an obligation to serve on juries if they want a decent judicial system, right? But maybe I would be prepared to throw myself on a grenade to save others, also. I just wouldn’t want to. The bottom line is I am willing to serve and I am even more willing that someone ELSE serve rather than me.
And so, being somebody who prayers often, when I am sitting in that jury assembly room and the clerk starts reading off names of people who have to get up and report to the court room to begin the jury selection process, I say a fervent prayer of “please, Lord, please don’t let my name be on that darn list.”
Now, understand. I believe that God can do ANYTHING. But I also believe that He has His own will and His own plans and they don’t necessarily jive with my agenda.
Anyway, I’m sitting near a woman whose name was called. And as she’s getting up and collecting her things to report to the court room, she says, “I’m glad my name was called. It’s better to get called right away. Otherwise you just sit here all day.”
So we’ve got a very different take: she’s glad that the thing I didn’t want to happen happened.
And who knows? Maybe she’s right! Maybe it IS better to just get called and report and get it over with in terms of getting on with your life and your schedule.
The woman who spoke was older. She’d gone through the system more than a few times, I’m sure. Just as I have. I’m thinking, “If they call me onto a jury, I could be there for two or three days just getting through the Voir Dire (jury selection) process. Even if I’m ultimately excused without having to serve on that eventual jury. She’s thinking, “The sooner they call you the sooner it will all be over with.”
And there have been plenty of times when BOTH of us have been right, haven’t there???
The clerk in the jury assembly room gets on the microphone again and announces that the other court room will be reporting their need soon and to stand by for twenty minutes. And I realize I have no idea whatsoever what to pray for. Do I pray that my name be called or do I pray that my name NOT be called? All I know is that I’ve got appointments and a lot of things to do that won’t get any better if I miss several days of my life. I mean, Holy moly: we’re just starting the New Year and I’M ALREADY BEHIND!!!
So what do I pray for? I have no idea. But fortunately, when it comes to praying, I DON’T HAVE TO HAVE ANY IDEA. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Even, I’m quite sure, the wordless groans of a helpless man awaiting his fate during jury duty.
“Lord,” I pray, “I have no idea WHAT to pray for. I just surrender it to You. You are God and You are in control. I just want to be able to go home, and I have no idea how to make that happen. I put my trust in You and in Your plan for my day.”
When the clerk comes back on the microphone, she announces that the other court has reported it does not need anybody. And we are excused.
It’s 10:20AM. And I have that child when the final school bell rings feeling.
Now, here’s the thing: maybe God would have wanted me to serve on a jury: maybe there was a case that He wanted to help decide. Maybe my future wife will be one of the other jurors. Maybe a lot of things I can’t possibly know about in advance but God does know about because He’s God and that’s what He does.
But as I’m racing out of the court-house to get to my motorcycle, I realize that maybe He just wanted me to come to that right place where I was actually desperate enough and unsure enough to turn things over to Him.
There’s a good theory that Israel spent forty years doing laps around the mountain in the wilderness during the Exodus because it just took them that long to finally come to the “Thy will be done” stage.
Dang, how often do we think we KNOW what is best for us??? How often are we completely certain that this needs to happen JUST THIS WAY and THAT most definitely must NOT happen???
I mean, it’s one point to come to that moment where you don’t even know what to do or what you want and finally turn it over to God. But think of all the times you just flat-out KNOW what is best.
And do we? Or are we like that woman who said she was happy her name was called when had her name NOT been called she would have been going home in just twenty minutes? [And realize I’m not picking on that woman, because I realized her pet theory was every bit as sound as mine and it could have been me sitting in that jury room all day and finally getting called into a jury at ten minutes to five o’clock and having to show up again the next day while SHE went home early].
Life is a highway, as the song says. But on this highway, we’re frequently driving around blindfolded and there are potholes and other cars all around us. And we often don’t know where to get on and where to get off. We’ve just got our inclinations and our guesses and our best judgment that often have us zigging when we sure should have zagged.
This is where the beautiful proverb of Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” becomes so real. When we finally realize, “I don’t know. but God DOES.” And put that realization into effect throughout our lives.
I’m not there yet. But I want to be.
There are two ways we can fail to trust the Lord. One I’ve already discussed; we THINK we know what’s best for us and anything other than that means God let us down. When of course maybe that’s not true at all because maybe you didn’t have a clue what was best for you.
But there’s another one: are we willing to be shaped and changed and transformed from what we are into something else?
I found and called in a stolen car several weeks ago that was set on fire and abandoned in the desert. The police had somebody come and tow what was left of the car away. Left behind was a lot of small pieces of melted aluminum.
I’ve picked up quite a few of those pieces. For some reason I find them fascinating.
Each of those pieces of aluminum had of course once been some part for the car (the engine block, the transmission, etc.). Now it’s just a blob of one of the lighter metals. But you look at a piece and you realize that of course it could be melted down again and become something else.
That’s how we are, too.
Malachi 3:3-4 says, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.”
It’s a picture of God sitting over each one of us, refining us, melting away the dross and leaving behind the most beautiful and valuable part of us.
As I’m sitting there in that jury assembly room not being happy about what may happen next, God may have other plans for me. I may have to do things that I don’t want to have to do and I may as a result literally become something different than what I am and contrary to my own plans and purposes. So that God can use me for His better plan and purpose.
Do I trust God to do that? Do I trust God to melt me down and change me into something else?
Often times, it’s just a matter of our letting go and letting God be God. We go through hard, even bitter times. Maybe years pass by, maybe decades. And we finally come to that point where we are willing to be shaped and forged into what God intended for us. And we’re finally ready to move on to the next, far better and far more meaningful, phase of our lives.
As we’ve had the imposition of gay marriage and the Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson blow-up, I’ve written a few pieces on homosexuality. I want to be crystal clear: the Bible says repeatedly that homosexuality is a sin and it never says anything other than that homosexuality is a sin. I’ve met homosexuals who realize that what they are feeling and doing is wrong. I know what that’s like, because I’ve got my own entrenched sinful behaviors and attitudes and I don’t like them but don’t know how to live blamelessly, either. And I truly feel compassion for these men because while we’re struggling with different things, we’re all struggling to overcome what we don’t want to be and do and become something we know is better.
But let me focus on the liberal, militant homosexual activist who says, “What I’m doing is NOT wrong! I am NOT going to change. I demand that I be able to continue to be EXACTLY what I am and keep doing EXACTLY what I’m doing.” And of course that attitude and the behavior that flows from that attitude is the essence of what St. Paul describes in Romans chapter one.
But now let’s take this discussion away from militant homosexual rebellion and focus on ourselves: how many of us are defiantly holding on to attitudes and feelings and beliefs and behaviors and activities that we KNOW are not right before God?
Most of us need some refining. Many of us need some serious melting down.
But God has ordained the universe such that we have to be willing to let Him work His ways and His wonders in us. He gave us free will and He respects the free will He gave us as part of our being created in the Imago Dei (in His image). And ultimately, we each of us have to come to that point in that circumstance where we need to realize, to recognize, that we are not where we need to be inside and that we need to be refined and transformed into something different.
Sometimes that process if unpleasant, even painful. I’ve got to go through a surgery to re-attach a ruptured tendon. I don’t look forward to it. I don’t look forward to the whole day. I don’t look forward to the recovery and the pain I will be in and the difficult rehabilitation it will take to successfully put me back together again. But I am willing to go through it because I am looking to the (better) end result. That said, I know a very pretty young woman who has a broken clavicle that literally comes loose but won’t have the surgery to get fixed up because she fears the process too much. There are a lot of better things she would be able to do if she just went through the pain and had the surgery, but fear paralyzes her.
We’re often like that young woman. We don’t want to change and we certainly don’t want to BE changed. We desperately cling to who we are even though who we are is broken.
We have to acknowledge that something isn’t right in us. We have to acknowledge that we’re broken. And we have to be willing to trust God and allow Him to refine us and even melt us down and reshape us into what HE wants us to be.
Dr. Phil (a different Phil from Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson) used to say to dysfunctional people living dysfunctionally, “How’s that working out for you?” If nothing else, let your failures guide you to God’s way. Stop banging your head against a wall of your own choosing and let God shape you to be something different and better.
That’s my prayer for me. And I hope it’s your prayer for you.