In my former life as a court reporter, I had the opportunity to be a part of 15 murder trials – some very high profile capitally tried and some not. Some of the victims were total losers, the dregs of humanity who kinda deserved it, and it was easy to be emotionally detached during those trials.
It was hardest to sit there and do my job in the cases where people were murdered by someone they loved and trusted – the ultimate betrayal. The names of those victims and the tortured faces of the ones they left behind will stay with me forever. By the end of my time as a court reporter I noticed a huge difference between the families who were able to forgive and those who weren’t.
This morning, for my Sunday devotional, I’m thinking of the family who introduced me to the Prayer of St. Francis. Their 17-year-old son had been murdered by four of his “friends” who lured him to an abandoned home, kept him there for days, got him so drunk he passed out, and then put a plastic bag over his head and zip tied it shut as he vomited. After the mastermind of this disgusting plot had been found guilty of first degree murder, the parents had a chance to speak, and they taught me a lesson on forgiveness. The mother was able to look at the Defendant and, with tears in her eyes, tell him she forgave him and loved him and prayed for him. After she spoke, she hugged the Defendant’s mother, who had lost a son too, after all.
The victim’s father then spoke. He told stories of his son’s gift for peacefulness and his love for everyone. He closed with the words of his son’s favorite prayer, the Prayer of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
The words spoke to me so powerfully that I could barely take them down. For the first time, I felt the Spirit in a courtroom… not the place where you would ordinarily find it. None of us will ever forget that moment in time, when the peaceful spirit of this young man and the Spirit of the Lord entered and granted healing.