I sat in the jury assembly room on Monday, waiting to hear if I would be assigned a case for the week. They told us there were eight cases to try, and it seemed like the majority of us would end up fulfilling our civic duty through Friday. I had never received a summons to be a juror before, so the process was new to me. But I understood that when they call your name, you go to a court room where you are vetted and potentially assigned a case to hear.
I had prayed that I would not be called upon because I, like most people in that room, had several commitments I wanted to keep that week, plus I didn’t have childcare for my three-year-old beyond Monday. I probably should have prepared better by rearranging my commitments and summoning my mother and mother-in-law to fulfill their “civic duty” and babysit for the week! I’m not sure if I was in denial or if I just assumed that all things would work together for my good (Rom. 8:28)! I’d rather pick the latter so that, technically, I could say my lack of preparation was simply a leap of faith!
So there I sat, in a room full of strangers, none of whom wanted to be there, trying to find ways to pass the time. I read, I wrote, I emailed, I took multiple trips to the bathroom, and I practiced patience. The only thing I heard before lunch was the run-down of what we all should expect. Then after lunch, a man came to the microphone, with papers in hand, and started reading off names, 30 to 40 at a time. He’d call the names, line up the jurors, have them count off to make sure everyone showed up, and then escort the group out of the assembly room. Each time he approached the microphone, I nervously listened for my name.
Finally, the four o’clock hour had come. I wondered if the fact that I had not been called was actually an answer to my prayer. Maybe by the end of the day all the assignments had been made and the rest of us could go home. I contemplated the possibilities… then, he approached the microphone with another list. About 10 names in, I heard, “Erica Glenn.” I had never disliked the sound of my name so much. I shuddered, I sighed, I grunted, and I rolled my eyes. Then, I got in line. I was angry, frustrated, disappointed, and afraid.
We lined up, counted off, and followed the man out of the assembly room and gathered together in the lobby. That’s where he proceeded to give us our marching orders. I didn’t want to be there, and I didn’t want to hear what he had to say. I thought to myself, “It’s official. He called your name. The week you had planned is ruined and everything is a disaster. What are you going to do now?”
I never expected to hear what he told us: “You are excused from jury duty for the rest of the week and for 2018. You can now go home. Thank you for your service.” I stood there in shock and disbelief, and then in excitement and relief. My week wasn’t ruined after all! I could carry on with my plans as usual. Life was good again!
I walked out to my car, turned the ignition, and then God pricked my heart with that all too familiar feeling of conviction. He had a few questions to ask me.
- Why did you respond so poorly when you heard your name?
- Do you trust that I care about the details of your life?
- Do you believe I have a purpose in the way things play out?
- Will you follow whatever path I lay before you?
Oh boy. Realizing the hardness of your own heart is tough. I repented of my pride, my attitude, and my lack of faith. I told Him that I trust the plans He has for me and that I would live this week with eager expectation, not of what I had planned, but of what He had planned.
It just so happened that the rest of my week, although it was jam-packed, was one of my favorite weeks of the year. My marriage, for which I had been praying, received fresh air and new life. Doubts I had believed in my heart were laid to rest. God graciously provided time for my husband and me to connect and restore the broken pieces. God confirmed in my heart a verse He had given me earlier in the year: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isa. 43:19).
That week also provided opportunities for growth and service. I attended a leadership conference and learned tools to grow in personal discipline, trust and vulnerability. It motivated me toward a life of purpose and impact, and I’m so thankful God allowed me to attend. I was also able to take my daughter to the doctor the next day, serve at her school, attend my nephew’s birthday party, pick up and deliver fundraiser items, connect with some new friends, spend time with and help my grandmother, and lead a bible study for a sweet group of girls… all of which would not have been possible if I was sitting in a jury box! In every opportunity, I expressed gratitude to the Lord for the gift of that moment.
I wouldn’t ever want to consider my plans more important than anything God has planned for me. He could have led me to serve in the jury just as easily as He led me to fulfill my commitments that week. But in this circumstance, God showed me that even though I make my plans, He is the one who determines my steps (Prov. 16:9). He is the one who breathes life into whatever I’m doing. It was a perspective change that I truly needed.
I encourage you, in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, to notice where God is working. Consider each day a gift and an opportunity for service, for relationship, and for new life. That’s what I’ve realized this week. I don’t want to take one day for granted, and I don’t want to miss where God is leading me.
The next time I am summoned, I plan to respond with trust and expectation, not with eye rolls and sighs. And the next time I act like my plans are more important than God’s, I’ll remember how I felt the time He called my name.