Sometimes the hard conversations are the ones that we need to have. We avoid them, run from them or sometimes completely ignore them. The longer I walk with Jesus, the more I realize that although he has changed my mind and my heart in drastic ways, I am still me. Although for a long time, I didn’t think it was o.k. to be me. Like today. Until I realized, I am exactly who he made me to be.
There are many people who have opinions on a variety of topics. Suffice it to say I wouldn’t go to a pediatrician to get an opinion on my criminal case. As smart as I am with the brains God has given me, I am smart enough to know I don’t know everything. But what I do know is the system, in all of its ebbs and flows, trials and tribulations, behind the scenes intensity and the story behind the story. I read a lot of commentary on the beast we call our court system. Most major news stories draw tons of commentary on the various opinions of the various people around the world. But if you don’t work there, if you’ve never been on the inside, it’s hard to offer anything but personal or emotion based commentary on the things you have no daily dealings with. I have seen it play out time and time again as I am in the middle of working on a case and am intimately familiar with the details, but the public who is not is able to formulate an opinion without knowing the whole story.
I mistakenly thought that when I came to Christ, everyone was a Christian. But I have found on my journey with Jesus that there are more atheists that are Christians than Christians. They may not know they are Christians, but many of them are. We are not living in the four corners and depths of their hearts. Sitting in a pew may make the seat warm, but most times, doesn’t do much more than that.
I am pushing against an uncomfortable current and God is calling me to do the things He has planned for me long ago in the way that I have been operating in the world for most, if not all of my adult life. Having the toughest cases, taking the most unpopular positions, fighting the big guy, calling out liars, defending the poor and the oppressed, standing up when others sit down, representing the people the public may hate the most. Nothing about that has changed. But to be a Christian and do those types of things is so much more difficult, to be judged by your own. Such a big part of me wants to walk away from this blog, and if it was mine, I would have. Who knows, maybe I will. But for now, in the midst of my discernment, I’ve decided to be me, well because He told me to. I find it monotonous to read pieces of people’s minds that seem regurgitated over and over again like a broken record. There are few people I admire in my line of work and fewer Christians than that. It’s not because they agree with me, in fact most of the time they do not. It’s because they stand their ground without getting emotional, they stand for something, and they can have a conversation about it without telling me they’re right. They don’t have to. I usually discover that through the way God uses them.
So when I started to read the book, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, the tears couldn’t come out of my eyes fast enough. It was a glimpse into my own feelings and struggles with the system, my current struggle to keep up with a system that devours most people and an honest look about fighting for something, that is so much bigger than you could ever be.
Bryan Stevenson is a young black Harvard law graduate who went on to found Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit devoted to defending poor people on death row in the heart of Alabama. I saw Bryan’s professor Tony Campolo from Eastern Bible College speak at a local event I was writing for, and his story changed my life. Months later I ran head first into this book and remembered the story of a young black attorney from a small bible college who went on to Harvard law. But he didn’t choose to work for a posh firm in New York where he could have made millions. He chose to start his organization in Alabama, defending the most hated men on the planet, because he believed in God and he believed in mercy. People hated him for what he did but he did it anyway, and many innocent men were exonerated and their lives spared as a result of his selfless work.
A quote early on in the book caught my attention and has been sitting in the very pit of my stomach. Bryan’s grandmother told him, “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance Bryan. You have to get close.” And that set the tone for the book, and for this stage of my life, where often I find myself closer than I ever would want to be.
The book quotes Thomas Merton as saying, “We are bodies of broken bones.” And Bryan asks a poignant and turning point question, “Why do we want to kill all the broken people?” It means more than it says if you take the time to read between the lines.
You need to get and read the book if you are on a search for truth, which is what the book is about. It will change you. It changed me. Bryan gives us so much to think about while showing mercy in a way that I have never seen captured before. He didn’t talk about being Christian in the book, except a few places here and there where he mentions growing up in church and speaking sometimes at churches, but he didn’t have to, Jesus was bleeding all over those pages.
If we’re gonna be real out here, we need to be honest, and start having some honest dialogue. Maybe I’ll stay, maybe I’ll go. I’m gonna do Christianity the way Jesus is showing me, the only way I know how- real, honest and transparent, being refined in the fire, hurting along the way, but knowing there is someone out there who reads these words and knows they’ve found the truth.
I hope you’ll stay with me on this rocky leg of my journey, as I find myself in the uncharted waters in the boat Jesus is sleeping in. What’s the point of being out here if we’re not exposed? There’s room in the boat for you too if you’re willing to come with me, and maybe take some people with you that you’ve never thought of bringing before.
Till’ next time…