January 26, 2014
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #315: The Mercy Seat
Life with the newly born again Joe continues to be a blessing. One moment we’re laughing our heads off, the next moment he’s stressed about something—what someone said to him, how he was treated by a “friend,” or what he’s going to do when he leaves prison later this year.
During one especially stressful moment, Joe felt he’d been wronged by a staff member who had misjudged him. Joe insisted on talking with someone to try and resolve the situation immediately, while I tried to calm him down, encouraging him to try to see the situation from God’s point of view: what was God perhaps teaching us through this trial? But no, Joe HAD to speak with someone. NOW.
I couldn’t help but smile as each successive staff member up the chain of command told Joe he needed to pray about the situation, that God was using this to prepare him for bigger trials in life, and that even the disciples faced trials as they were with Jesus Himself. God even used a non-religious staff member to say the same thing to Joe. He finally got the point, and we prayed for God to handle the situation—and He did.
Another stress point came about this week when Joe received notice that a staff member who had hit him four months ago had been fired and was now facing serious assault and hate crime charges in the local county courthouse. The letter said that Joe could file a Victim Impact Statement if he wanted to, but the court date was the next day.
I interviewed Joe, wrote the answers to the questions, and prepared a seven-page fax to send to the local prosecutor handling the case. Since a senior officer had witnessed the officer ram Joe with his shoulder (after being told to leave him alone three times), the case against the officer was quite simple—open-and-closed.
The problem came when the prison wouldn’t fax the document for us, and they wouldn’t call the courthouse or city attorney’s office so that I could request more time to at least mail Joe’s statement.
With an hour to go before the court hearing, Joe and I called the city attorney’s office. I spoke for Joe, telling the city attorney that the Victim Impact Statement was in hand but not getting faxed. She then asked me (as Joe) what I wanted to see happen in this case. This was a first for me! I felt like I had the officer’s life in my hands as the city attorney prosecuting him asked me if I wanted the former correctional officer to get prison time for his actions. I’d talked with Joe about this, so I was prepared.
At first, Joe had wanted the officer to suffer as he’d had to suffer. After all, if Joe had done the exact same thing to the officer, he would have been charged with a felony assault and likely had to serve an additional 12 years. Then, as he recognized God’s great mercy on him, he’d told me that he wouldn’t wish prison on anyone, no matter if they deserved it or not.
The prosecutor asked about community service for the officer, to which I agreed, so that he could understand the severity of his actions while avoiding having a conviction on his record. Then, I spoke what Joe wanted to say—to please tell the officer that I don’t hate him, and I forgive him for what he did, since I’ve been reading the Bible, which says to “Bless those who curse you.” The city attorney was stunned, commending Joe for changing his life and for extending mercy.
Joe and I thanked God for His mercy to us and for the privilege of extending that mercy to someone else. Thanks for praying!