This morning I had to go to court one more time to fight a speeding ticket. Now, if I get a ticket and I deserve it, I pay it. I may grumble and complain a little, but I pay it. Okay, some of you know I grumble and complain a lot! But I pay it.
This time was different. I don’t doubt I was speeding, but I did have serious doubts about the officer's observations and what he was offering as evidence.
This morning was my fourth court appearance for the same ticket. It’s a long and complicated story, and I won’t bore you with the details, but let me tell you as succinctly as I can what God did.
I was SO nervous. A courtroom can be a very intimidating place and the characters on the stage are not often very helpful to you standing up there when you’re not used to things and don’t know the correct procedures and you don't even speak the same language! (Legalese.) In fact there is serious danger of your ignorance, not to mention your lower intelligence, being taken advantage of at every turn. Crown attorneys and judges are very, very smart people. They are used to the courtroom jargon, are comfortable in the environment, and can easily intimidate you with their body language and facial expressions, while at the same time confusing you with their words and phrasing of questions. Yikes!
I didn’t talk very much about the upcoming day in court, even to my nearest and dearest, because it would stir up so much adrenaline and so quickly that I would instantly feel sick at heart if not sick at my stomach. So I avoided the subject. I avoided thinking about it too, but would occasionally throw up a quick prayer, knowing that whatever happened, God would take care of me. How’s that for being fractured? On one level – probably my flesh --I was scared silly, and on another level (in my spirit?) I was confident that God was in control.
God has been speaking to me through the book of John the last few weeks. I have been reading through my favourite gospel very, very slowly, this time -- just thinking about it and letting every scene seep in – sometimes spending a week or more on one little passage. I’ve been trying to “get to know” - really, really know - the man Jesus. Through his actions, and through his interchanges with others.
This very week I was reading about the calling of his disciples in the first chapter of John. (I told you I was going slowly!) I thought about it often, putting myself “there”, imagining what it would be like to have been invited - in the flesh - to “Follow Me”.
Today as I was driving along toward the courthouse (watching my speed, of course), I was too far too distracted about the submission I was about to make in court to put a string of very many words together to form any kind of meaningful prayer. I heard my heart saying to God, simply, “Well, you’ll be going with me – that’s good.”
“No, I won’t,” I heard his still small voice. “I won’t going with you, you’ll be going with me. You’re following me, remember? I’m not following you.”
Wow. It was another one of those instant changes in perspective. Instead of me going through life hoping that God is following me around in whatever mess I find myself in this time, it’s actually him that’s leading the way through it all (if I acquiesce, that is). What a huge difference that little shift makes. It's a whole new paradigm.
It was him today that led me into that courtroom. I thought about all the decisions that were made leading up to this day. He was involved in every one. I had tried to follow his direction every step of the way through all the proceedings of every court appearance. Before today's epiphany I guess I kind of just assumed God would show up in court with me. When I got in trouble, he would be there. But now, I see that he has things to teach me and the path he has ordained for me to walk actually led me there today. Suddenly I was a lot more calm! It didn't matter what happened, whether I "won" or "lost" the case, I was following him through it.
So I drove up to the courthouse, parked my car opposite the front door, and followed God in there. (Can you see me trotting along behind him? That’s what it felt like!)
I was well prepared. My husband had poured out every ounce of love he has for me this week to make sure of that. He organized my submission, all my evidence, correspondence, and even copies of precedent setting cases into three bound volumes, one for the Crown, one for the Court, and one for me.
I handed them out to the respective parties and heard the crown attorney say, “This is amazing. A LOT of work has gone into this. I’ll need a short recess, your worship, to look this over.” There was a buzz filling the courtroom.
Recess was granted and she disappeared into a side-room for about half an hour. When she came out she called me aside, “I’m going to withdraw this case,” she said. “You have everything here.”
When she went back to her place in front of the bench she was asked by the police officers and others milling about what she was going to do. “I’m going to withdraw the case,” she said. “And I’m going to hire her.” She was pointing at me!
“Did you do this?” a police officer asked, pointing to the bound submission.
“We did,” I answered, pointing to my husband Ron. (I didn’t tell them it was 99% him and 1 % me, but that didn’t seem prudent at the time.) Everyone in the courtroom was looking at us. And they were smiling!
“Are you lawyers?” they asked. And then “What DO you do?” when we answered no.
“He’s a surveyor, and I work with children with autism.” They shook their heads in amazement.
“Don’t throw that away,” someone said, referring to the bound submission. The inference was that it could be used to help others who found themselves in the same situation.
At the end of it all, the judge began apologizing for the trouble the court had put me through. I interrupted him with the following speech:
“I’d like to say something, your honour. This has been an incredible process for me to go through. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m grateful for every step of the way. This is a great country, Canada. Whichever way the case would have gone, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to “have my day in court”.”
I added that the Crown (that's Legalese for: prosecuting attorney) and the Court (Legalese for the four different judges who had been involved in each appearance) had been very helpful with guiding me through the process and I thanked them sincerely.
“Well, thank you, for that,” said the judge kindly. He was genuinely appreciative of my words. His face said it all. He added, “You can be sure that will go into the court record,” while he looked expectantly at the court recorder. Then he turned back to me, “You’re free to go.”
Free to go? I sighed a huge sigh. And I followed God right back out of there, of course!