Well, the hearing happened...and it also didn't. I just didn't get my moment to say what I needed to say. For some reason, the guy declined the prosecutor's offer of 20 years in prison and requested to go to trial. So I didn't need to be at the hearing...and I didn't need to get out of school...and I didn't need to worry about that sleepless night before hand.
But, at the same time, it was so important that I was there! I strongly believe that God brought me to that moment for two reasons:
1. to prove that I could do it
2. to see if I would
As several of my friends can testify, I was terrified the night before. I had recently forgotten his face and wasn't particularly keen on re-remembering it. But God had different plans. (Doesn't he usually?? :P)
The morning of the hearing, I felt surprisingly calm. I had my speech carefully written down and was as prepared as I could be. I'd taken extra care to look my best. I didn't feel too afraid. I can't really explain it as anything other than the peace of God. Nothing else could have caused the level of peace I felt. I don't know what my dad was thinking as I acted calm instead of jumpy and excitable. He never asked and I never ventured an explanation.
When we reached the courthouse, I started to feel a little shaky. I was beginning to actually understand what I had agreed to, what I was about to walk into. And it was beginning to scare me. But I was determined to not allow my fear to control me and pull me away from what I felt was God's call.
Sitting outside the courtroom, which didn't look at all like the rooms I'd seen in the movies, I prayed. I wanted to do this. This had become more than what I felt God pushing me towards...this had become a desire of my heart to follow through with forgiving him. As I sat there, the elevator door opened and a couple of officers came out, guarding five orange-clad men.
And there he was.
The one who broke into my house.
I still knew his face.
When I first saw his face, my heart started pounding and my stomach began to churn...but only for a few minutes. The fear wasn't the same...wasn't really overpowering me. This man didn't frighten me anymore.
Dad walked up then and watched the train of criminals filing into the courtroom and then looked at me. "Is one of those yours?"
In the courtroom, Dad and I sat and waited for the sentencing hearing to begin. I kept looking over at the man who broke into my house. But this time, it was different. He didn't look the same to me, even though he hadn't really changed since I'd seen him last. He would sometimes look back at me, squinting, as if he recognized me...but he never seemed to react. I watched him smile. I could look at him differently. I know how weird that sounds, but hear me out!
I felt no anger towards him. I could look at him with compassion...with the love of Jesus Christ. And that is only by the grace of God and the peace he bestowed upon me. I know I keep saying that, but it is the only explanation I have to offer you.
When I learned that I would not be allowed to speak to the man at the hearing, because he'd turned down the twenty years he'd been offered, I was honestly frustrated. Here I was, excused from school, and I wasn't going to get to say what I felt such a strong calling to say. But as I thought about it, I realized that God was testing me. He wanted to see if I would listen to the urge he'd put in my spirit...and if I would be willing to follow through.
I'm sure that I will have my chance someday. But until then, I'll be happy with the good grade I got on God's test. :) My God is good and perfect and His will is always the best.