(written in 2017)
The cold steel cut into my wrists, tightening with each movement as I struggled to find a comfortable position. The familiar rattle of the chain around my waist brought with it memories of the last time I walked through the hallways of this courthouse, the last time I walked as a guilty man towards my impending doom and punishment. And with the memories came the self-accusations. How did I end up here again? How could I let myself fall for the same old tricks over again? How could I give into my old habits again, after all it took to revive my life from the last catastrophe?
My feet shuffled in the shackles as the bailor drug me down the hallway, towards the wooden doors ahead that I had, unfortunately, become familiar with. I recognized each tile along the floor, each painted image hanging on the walls of the courthouse, having spent more time here than in my own home. I was even familiar with the hand grasping tightly to my arm pulling me forcibly, almost with glee, towards my fate. I met the bailor’s eyes to see a smile hidden within them, a joy in my misery that cut deep into my core. My heart ached at the truth that this enemy was pleased with himself for having caught me in ruin once again.
Tripping on the oversized prison wear, I abruptly found myself face to face with the cold tile floor that I had walked many times before. I quickly reached my hands up as far as the cuffs would allow to find blood dripping from my lip. Struggling to get up, I looked around at the faces of the people filling the hallways, eager to see the spectacle of my capture and trial. But no solace could be seen in the eyes of the onlookers. Each person filling the crowded passage looked at my struggle as if watching their favorite movie unfold before their very eyes.
A voice came from behind me as I tried desperately to regain any ground of pride I had left in me. Struggling to stand again, I heard the tone of a man I had learned to hate, as he said:
“Get up, boy! We’ve got a trial to get to. And you’re the V.I.P.!”
I turned to see the hatred in the eyes of the opposing lawyer I had known all my life, the only true enemy in my world. The disgust I felt for him was nothing compared to the anger I had for myself in this moment. And he pounced on my weakness like a lion enjoying his prey. Leaning close enough to my face that I could smell the poison of his words as he spewed hatred on me, he continued his verbal abuse. “Thought you were better than this, didn’t you, boy? You’re nothing! And one day, you’ll finally give up trying to be anything but the waste of a human being that you.”
I struggled to breath as he smiled eerily at me, close enough that I could hear his own lungs taunting my gasps. “Get up, boy! The judge is waiting.” Standing tall over me once again, he sharply kicked my side before gleefully heading towards the doors of the courtroom, taking with him the last of my air.
I desperately scanned the hall for anyone to help me, any sympathy. But none could be found. Pulling on my arm, the bailor joined the circling spiral of hatred around me, “Let’s go.”
As I finally found my footing, I rose from the depths of despair and surrendered to the fate ahead of me. The lawyer pulled on the heavy wooden doors with a smile on his face. But as the light of the room poured into the passage, his smile faded to shock. Stepping into the doorway I too found myself in disbelief. It was the same courtroom I had been in time and time before. The same judge’s stand looming tall against the far wall. The same jury booth full of the same chairs. All was the same, with one exception.
The empty silence of the room echoed off the walls. Every chair, every post that was normally filled with the regular attendees, was completely and utterly vacant. No lawyer waiting at the table for me. No jury starring me down as I walked in, instantly making judgments on my guilt. Not one person was sitting in the seats of the audience. And as I let my eyes roam up to the judges stand, I was surprised to see that even it stood empty. Confusion swept across the group of accusers who had drug me into trial. Everyone seemed bewildered beyond words at the sight of this room absent of even one person.
The bailor continued to drag me until I reached my normal seat before the judge’s stand. For several minutes the confusion controlled the room. Voices could be heard from the opposition whispering things like, “Where’s the judge?” “What is happening?” “The trial was today, right?”
Finally, the lawyer took control. He walked quickly to the door at the back of the judge’s stand, the door leading to the private office of the high court judge, and knocked briskly. The room around me fell silent in anticipation, but nothing happened. I stood completely still, weary to do anything wrong to upset the commotion building around me. Again, with more strength, the lawyer knocked. And again, silence was his only reward. Anger began to boil as the lawyer’s face turned bright red. Like thunder he banged on the door, adamant that he would have his response. I held my breath, desperate for something, anything, to happen and end this torment.
Slowly, the door knob turned, then gently opened. The lawyer jumped back in surprise. From behind the door I could hear a voice I was very familiar with.
“What are you doing here?” the judge inquired of the lawyer.
The lawyer stumbled over his words, unable to explain the situation before him. He simply gestured in my direction as my heart jumped into my throat in panic. The judge stepped out of his office, his eyes meeting mine instantly. Guilt covered my face as I looked back at him. Shame crept its way across my whole being, knowing that I had gone against the judge’s wishes and repeated my offenses. I felt as if I had not only failed myself, but him as well. He was the one person in my life who believed I could do better, be better. So, to find myself before him in shackles once again, instantly broke my heart. As my eyes filled with tears of regret, he walked towards me.
Standing before me, taller than anyone else in the room, he looked me square in the eyes and said, “What are you doing here?”
I had no words to give him. My emotions spilled forth as my tears became sobs. I lowered my eyes to the ground in complete failure, allowing the tears to fall freely to the floor around my shackled feet.
Softly, firmly, he put his hand on my shoulder, offering me a portion of his strength. With this gift I was able to lift my eyes back up to his. With a gentleness I had never experienced, he repeated his words, “What are you doing here?”
I took a breath, trying hard to regain my composure. But before I could speak, the opposing lawyer had found his own voice.
“He broke the law again, judge! We have evidence. He deserves to be punished!”
The judge quickly spun around to square up with the lawyer. Holding out his hand, the judge replied, “What evidence?”
The lawyer ran from his position by the door to his table, quickly grabbing all the paperwork his team had gathered for him. I knew he held within his hands all the evidence needed to seal my fate, to declare me guilty of not just one crime, but many. I had, indeed, broken the law again. And I had no apologies to offer that would save my life from the punishment I knew was coming. The lawyer forcibly thrust the papers into the judge’s hand with pride at his accomplishment. But with one look from the judge, he quickly stepped back to the safety of his own familiar position in the courtroom. His lackeys surrounded him in agreement of his accusations against me.
The judge looked through each paper carefully, thoroughly, as my heart raced rapidly within my chest. As he turned each page, a layer of guilt was added to my heart, weighing heavier and heavier within me. I studied the face of the man before me, searching for any sign of condemnation or shock that would confirm for me the thoughts I had of myself in this moment. But his face was still. I could read nothing within the expression before me. He simply continued on through each and every paper presented before him. When he finally reached the end, he closed the folder and looked up to meet my eyes once again. A moment of stillness captured all attentions within the room as we waited for his response.
A smile crept across his face. Softly he placed a hand on my shoulder.
“My dear son, what are you doing here? Don’t you know, have you not learned yet? You have been redeemed.”
Shock and bewilderment covered my very being. I stammered a reply, “I … I messed up again. I … I broke the law again.”
The judge simply smiled in response.
With that, the opposing lawyer flew into a rage.
“Didn’t you read the evidence?! He’s guilty! He even admitted it with his own words! He’s guilty!! Condemn him!”
Righteous indignation flashed in the eyes of the judge as he spun to face the opposing lawyer and his team of goons.
“We settled this already! You have no right to blame this child any longer. He is now a child of God. He has been redeemed. ALL of his sins have been paid for in full! You have no right to bring him here! Your evidence is useless.”
Turning softly back to meet my gaze, he directed his words to me.
“My son, I need you to know, the trial is over. It’s been settled. You are redeemed. You don’t have to be here. You don’t have to keep revisiting your past failures. It’s done. When you accepted the blood of My Son as your Savior, He covered you completely, all of you.”
I began to understand His words as a light snuck into my heart.
“You don’t have to keep coming here. The trial is over. Don’t let this enemy convince you otherwise.”
Quickly, I began to see things from His perspective. I began to understand Him in a way I had not before. I didn’t have to be here! I had already been found not guilty because of the blood of Jesus. That couldn’t be changed! No matter what happened moving forward, I was declared not guilty. The trail was over!
Instantly, the chains fell from around me and I was no longer standing weak and worn in tattered prison garments. I was standing firmly in clothes as white as the light radiating from the Judge’s eyes. I was clean, as I had been before. I had not lost my purity in His sight. I had simply believed the lies of the lawyer that I was still a prisoner, lies I now recognized as arrows of the enemy.
Guilt and shame ran from my presence, now firmly found in the truth of His words. I turned my gaze from My Father’s to meet the eyes of my enemy. I took the papers from the Judge’s hand and threw them at the enemy and his company of demons.
“The trail is over.” I declared. “Get away from me! You have no authority here.”
In panic, the lawyer and his goons ran from the courtroom, screeching in anger as they departed. And I laughed at the sight. As the door closed behind them, the Judge wrapped His arms around me in a loving embrace that my very being craved.
“You are redeemed.” He repeated, pouring truth into my soul. “The trial is over. Forever.”