. . . we prayed and then drove to the court house. I was uneasy. I wanted to glorify God no matter the outcome. The courtroom was filled with our family and friends. I felt blessed. Amber and Jesse sat at the front, waiting to be called up. But we waited quite a while. Others were being sentenced. It became frightening. We could tell the judge was giving harsh sentences for seemingly minor offences. When these “criminals” went forward to be sentenced, their family members entered the courtroom. Possibly one or two family members. Sometimes none. None of these people, “criminals” or family members, had the support Amber and Jesse and Ron and I had.
A young woman, crying, sat alone at the side of the courtroom.
I went over, sat beside her, and put my arm around her, hoping to console her. She told me about her sister who would be arraigned on this day.
Her short story was filled with hopelessness – a background of abuse and hate, a story of drugs, a child taken from her mother, no money for bail. I asked if I could pray for her and for her sister. She allowed me to.
Although I prayed for her sister by name,
my prayer was for all women invaded by the enemies of abuse and neglect, deceived by the demons of a myriad of drugs, – for their crying and neglected children, entwined in the lost cycle of it all –
people for whom I now had a greater empathy and a sincere concern. “Christ, we fight under your banner. Lead us.”
Soon her sister, handcuffed and dressed in orange and white stripes, stood before the judge. The arraignment was stated. The officer led her from the courtroom. The young woman smiled a thank you through her tears as she left the courtroom. I returned to my seat and waited our turn.
I thought of the first time, nine months ago, when I had entered this court house. I remembered seeing my daughter and her husband in shackles. I recalled the many court appearances speckled throughout the months between then and now, during which I had seen other women and men shuffling down the halls of the court house, in the faded striped coveralls, shackled hand and foot.
Some hung their heads in shame; some were frightened; some smirked. No matter their demeanor, my heart had ached for each one; my hate for the deceitful enemy who had caused it all was refueled, but my awareness of the Father’s great love for all and the saving grace of Jesus Christ was foremost in my mind.
Now I looked at my daughter, her beauty and health returning to her once-addicted body, and at my son-in-law, now a redeemed man in every sense of the word, and I thanked God. They sat together, knowing that most likely, they would be separated from this day forward, and separated from their children, as well, for a lengthy time. But they faced the consequences of their sins and crimes, thankful that God had saved them out of their depression and addiction, thankful that they had a bright future in Him.
The judge had stepped out – then reentered the courtroom. “All stand,” the court assistant instructed.
Jesse was summoned first. His lawyer spoke. Then Jesse spoke, humbling himself before the court. The judge pronounced the sentence: One year in the county jail. His face was enveloped in pain as the deputy court officer escorted him out. Our family cried. I hurt for Jesse, and I hurt for his children. A year without their daddy – and after he had become a better daddy. Amber tried to compose herself, knowing she needed to stand before the judge next.
I hadn’t felt so helpless since her arrest nine months ago. There was not one thing I could do to change the course of events today. It seemed that it was all in the judge’s hands, yet I knew it was truly in our Lord’s hands. I trusted Him, and I trusted the judge. We believed him to be a godly man and we had committed this all to the Lord, even this sentencing. We had seen the miracle of God in transforming our Amber and Jesse. We knew we would see the mercy of God today. And although I trusted in God’s mercy, it didn’t change the pain I felt when Amber was sentenced.
Her lawyer spoke. Amber spoke, admitting her crime and regret, putting herself at the mercy of the court. “Ninety days in jail,” the judge said. Oh, no, I thought – or spoke – or cried. I don’t know which. I was numb. The deputy took Amber by the shoulder and began to escort her out of the courtroom. I rushed to the front, near the door where he was leading her, extending my arms to hug her – to hold her one last time. “GET BACK,” he shouted. “DON’T TOUCH HER.” Our eyes met – Amber’s and mine. She was my daughter, my beautiful little baby girl.
Through clouded eyes, I saw Ron crying and hugging our daughter, Kristen, our son, Matt, and our daughter-in-law, Lynette. I was trying to make my way to them, but I couldn’t seem to move.
Our friends were talking. Some were smiling. I felt very strange. Their lives would go on as usual after they left this courtroom, but ours wouldn’t. I was very broken.
I had asked God for mercy, and I had received mercy. Their sentences were evidences of His mercy, shown through the wisdom of the judge. But the overwhelming pressures of the last nine months pressed in on me. All I could think of was, how will we tell the children? How will we tell them their parents won’t be with them for Christmas? Emotionally crushed and physically weakened, I felt someone take my arm. My brother, Larry, had come to my rescue, as he had in various ways throughout our childhood and the many years since. He helped me out of the courtroom and out of the building. The cool November air and warm sunshine stroked my face like a fresh renewal from God. Ron and I drove straight home, and Matt and Lynette and Kristen met us there. We “regrouped” and I once again knew “the hope” to which my Lord had “called” me. After a time of prayer and renewal, they headed home. Then Jake came over and the three of us, as grandparents, went to the school to pick up the children and convey the bitter report.
The children were quiet. I’m sure they suspected to hear that their parents were in jail. Once they were all in the car, collected from their three different schools, one of us, I don’t remember which one, told them the sad news: Their parents had both been sent to jail. It was another one of those moments you never want to experience. Their faces were the saddest I had ever seen. I held back the tears. It was the least I could do for them. “Will they be with us for Christmas?” Kaylee asked.
“No, honey,” I replied. I think those were the two most arduous words I’d ever spoken.
My sandals were off, and the place was holy. We carried around Jesus, and we knew the hope to which He had called us. Now we needed the healing he promised.