I was summoned for Jury Duty on Monday and I dreaded it for months. I received the letter back in June and I counted down the awful days until I had to make the trek downtown to serve my time. Monday morning came and anxiety consumed me. It was raining buckets and traffic was horrible. All I could think was, Really, God?  I found the entrance, entered a crowded room, and approached a woman at a podium taller than me. For people who had an issue (medical, personal, or otherwise) they had to sit and wait. So, I sat and waited.

I sat in the second row towards the front off to the side and scanned every face in the room.  A woman nine months pregnant sat in the front row. A man in a wheelchair sat in the back with his mother. A college student sat in the front row and read a magazine. An elderly man with a cane sat in the middle row. But the person I noticed more than anyone in the entire room was a man sitting in front of me who was reading the Bible on his tablet. I smiled.  That entire morning I saw nothing good about my day ahead. Seeing this man made me take a step back and reflect on how I view life and  people I encounter daily.

For those of you who are not familiar with Jury Duty it’s pretty much a waiting game. I had to wait for my name to be called and wait to give my reason for not being able to serve. What seemed like forever, it was probably one of those life experiences’ I will always remember. For the first time in my life I got a real glimpse into humanity.

I was able to see through each individual in that room, listen to their struggles, and understand that sometimes a person’s struggle is unseen and grace is beating below my shallow surface.

The pregnant woman’s struggle was obvious – she was due any minute. But the rest of the stories I listened to that morning made me emphasize with others more. I listened to a story of a woman whose mother is dying and she is her primary care taker. I listened to a woman who has high blood pressure and without warning passes out. I listened to the man in the wheelchair who couldn’t serve due to his disability and transportation issues. I listened to a story of a man who is leaving the country to serve in the military. I listened to the woman whose boyfriend was a convicted felon.

All these stories resonated with me. More deeply, these stories redefined how I think of and treat others.

It’s easy as a believer to only associate with other believers – relate to them, connect with them, and love them. But, I want more. Every face in that room was a beating heart of struggle. Whether they were lying to get out of serving, I’m doubtful. I’ll be honest and say it was my first thought, until I listened to their voices while they shared their struggle and current burden. I heard them in their voices and saw the pain of life in their eyes as they approached the woman at the podium.

It made me want to meet them in their struggle and carry their burdens, because theirs were deeper than mine.

I will never forget the lady at the podium either. Her name  was Marsha. Most of the stories she heard that morning she excused almost all of them and they were free to go.  I was one of them.  She made me think what it would be like when I stand before God and have to  give Him an account of my life.  Marsha showed more patience, kindness, and grace that morning than any person I have ever met face to face.  She emphasized with every heart in that room, including mine.  The way God unconditionally and continually shows His love, kindness, patience, and grace with us.

Being in that room restored my faith and hope in humanity.

I encountered so many different people that morning. State prisoners, elderly, disabled, pregnant, young, old, and people like me. I left that room a changed person internally. While I waited for my ride, I shared my umbrella with an elderly woman in the pouring rain. I said good morning to a state prisoner who was hauling trash to a nearby dumpster and I smiled at every face that met my eyes as I waited. For the first time in a year, I could feel the heart of Jesus in me.

I will always remember this experience and know Jesus was there.

Colossians 3:12

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Would you?