Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Chosen

I wasn’t chosen.

Now that could be a happy or sad occasion. If, as a kid, I wasn’t picked to be a part of a softball team I was sad indeed. However, if the teacher passed over me and chose some other unfortunate individual for an oral book report, I went limp with relief. And so it went. Chosen for this; not chosen for that. Happy – sad. In other words, life.

My latest chosen/not chosen episode took place in a far loftier atmosphere than an arid, weedy ball field – a judicial building in our small town.

We, the chosen jury pool, dutiful citizens all, huddled together one rainy, cold Monday morning in the Wilbur D. Mills Court House. Yawning, shivering, some of us slightly moist, we each answered “Here” as our names were called by a smiling circuit clerk. May I say all the court officials were super courteous? They were, from the cheerful bailiff who greeted us at the court room door, to the just-mentioned pleasant circuit clerk, to the gentlemanly lawyers, to the soft-spoken judge with an appropriate twitch of humor. Don’t know about the court reporter, she had her hands full and didn’t any pay attention to us. (It occurred to me that our bailiff would outperform Judge Judy’s somber officer any day of the week.)

At the beginning of this adventure, I asked the Lord to do with me as He wanted. Before you admire me too abundantly, I also added a post script that He knew I did not want to do this, but YWBD (your will be done, for those of you unfamiliar with church talk). Plus I felt a little guilty not wanting to participate in the process since I am an American citizen. Still didn’t want to do it, though.

As the dreary morning wore on, 18 potential jurors and alternates moved to front row seats as each was chosen. One of them, a long-time acquaintance, threw me a glance that really looked like a sigh as she rose from her seat. When the final alternate was seated, I exhaled a small whoosh of relief – I hadn’t been chosen! However, underneath the relief, a tiny sprig of disappointment wriggled (to my surprise). I stepped on it immediately and breathed: Thank you, Lord, for sparing me.

Oh, but it wasn’t over yet: one of the selected asked to speak to the judge. He recounted his tale of woe which concerned his mother-in-law. No, not the things he disliked about her, if any; he was supposed to transport her to the airport that afternoon smack in the middle of the trial. His Honor opined that he surely didn’t want to be party to anyone getting in trouble with his mother-in-law and dismissed him from duty.

We, the leftovers, tightened those muscles so recently relaxed and waited with bated breath to see who the next offering might be. Lord I meant what I said: YWBD. But please don’t let them chose me!!

Me! It was me - I mean, it was I! I was chosen as the replacement! Okay, Lord, I’m good with this. I scrubbed past the once-again-relieved fellow waiters to take my place with the selected few.

After 30 minutes or so of both defense and prosecuting attorneys questioning us about prejudices, opinions, etc., it was time to select the final 12 and an alternate. Lord, you know the routine: YWBD. But…!

Many minutes later, just before the clerk called out the name of the 12th juror, I wondered how God would finish this up. Didn’t have long to wait; yep, I would be one of the 12. I was number 12, as a matter of fact. As I sat down in the box, a friend sent me a slightly evil grin from his seat of “unchosenness,” relishing my fate.

In spite of this seemingly done deal, the Lord wasn’t quite done. Just as I settled in and began to feel important and elite and even kind of biblical (Jesus chose 12, didn’t He?), the clerk corrected, “My mistake - Mrs. Woodell is supposed to be the alternate for this jury, not one of the 12.” I changed seats with the lady next to me. I’m still good with this, Lord, even though I’m not biblical anymore. I’m demoted. YWBD.

But the Lord wasn’t done, even yet. After lots of paper shuffling, a little conferring with the attorneys and a word to the judge, Ms. Clerk said, “My bad – Mrs. Woodell isn’t supposed to be the alternate.” Then she spoke these words alight with sunbeams and garlands of roses and cotton candy: “Mrs. Woodell, you are excused from jury duty; you are free to go.”

This time I was the evil grinner as I exited the box.

And don’t try to tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.