A year ago, my courage failed me.
I watched an Innocent Man taken away in handcuffs.
I knew the verdict before it was read.
I knew when twelve jurors filed in and refused to meet my eye.
I knew when all the police officers in the building filed in and formed a shoulder to shoulder line behind the Innocent Man, obstructing view from family and friends.
I knew by the grief that settled around my shoulders, a mantle I would wear by faith for eight years.
You are not allowed to cry or make noise in a courtroom. It’s protocol that looks good in movies, but is hard to abide by when the court system has failed you.
I put on my coat and gloves, gathered my purse and walked into the frigid winter air, upheld on each side by a dear Christian couple that offered support. But, it wasn’t the strength of their support I felt, it was the presence of the Lord.
It was a walk I’ll never forget.
As I forced myself to take step after step, the Lord spoke to my broken heart, “This is the way, walk ye in it.”
I knew He had allowed it, a plan that was not my plan and a way that was not my way.
I looked the verse up and I have left this verse on my online Bibles the entire year as a reminder.
I stayed a few more days in the state, dealing with the Innocent Man’s belongings and business affairs in a home where he was taken in and loved by Christian strangers who became family. Before this happened, he had been gainfully employed. He had been a few months away from getting a degree. He had renewed his faith in Christ as His Savior and was eagerly living a new life in Christ. One lie took everything from him but his faith.
His life went into boxes, then into a garage. I knew that the majority of the items would be useless to him upon his release, but I didn’t want him to come home to nothing.
It wasn’t until I was at the airport to fly home that my courage failed.
I walked through the busy crowd that was oblivious to my intense pain. Others were flying home to loved ones, to exotic vacations, or on business trips. I tried to notice if anyone else wearing the same mantle of grief.
The first time my courage failed was in the security lines. Of course, I was chosen to be searched. I was not so kindly pointed to a table when my suitcase was immediately seized and opened in public, my piles of dirty laundry shoved around by blue-gloved hands. There was no eye contact, and I was suspect.
I hated that feeling.
I knew I was innocent.
Then, Homeland Security Man looked up, almost smiled and said, “Oh.”
He showed me the offending item and allowed me to repack my suitcase. I was thankful he let me keep my Courage, a memento I had taken from the Innocent Man’s desk.
The second time my courage failed at the airport was just prior to boarding.
I didn’t want to fly 2,000 miles away. It seemed to cruel to leave him in prison while I went back to my wonderful life with my husband, children, my home, my church family.
I called the Innocent Man’s brother and sobbed on the phone. I tried to cry quietly, but the waves of grief overflowed; I wanted to lay on the airport floor and weep. I clenched my teeth and bit my tongue. I wiped my eyes and tried to hold my sobs within my person. My body ached with the effort.
I wept because I felt I ‘d failed. I hired good lawyers. I’d researched, studied and interviewed and was extremely involved in the case. I spent hours at my computer, hours on the phone and hours in prayer. We had covered all of our physical and spiritual bases.
But I was flying home alone and an Innocent Man was in prison.
The first few months in county jail were painful. I learned several prisoners had died in this jail because they were refused medical treatment and full medication. The IM is a diabetic who needs four shots of insulin a day. The jail policy is to give two. Intervention and prescriptions from his primary care physician were refused. His blood sugar levels were daily in the 200’s and 300’s and he was worried he would die in jail. (I didn’t tell him about the jail’s history.)
But, during a phone conversation the IM said to me, "I’m so at peace. I am so in love with the Lord."
Another time he said, “If this room was dark, I would be glowing. I have something the other men don’t have. They might profess salvation, but they aren’t happy in here.”
The same Presence that walked me out of the courtroom, was walking beside him.
He was transferred to a state prison and relief came in the form of medical attention. They allow four shots of insulin and other health screenings. Friends and family members learned skills we never thought we’d need to know. Prisons don’t provide warm clothing, shoes, pen, paper, lamps, shampoo, etc., so we had to learn how to provide his needs.
Each step of the way we’ve all had to summon fresh courage to face the obstacles and go on. We’ve had to remind ourselves often that God is sovereign, and we choose to believe nothing is out of His control or His care.
The Innocent Man continues to grow in his faith, trusting the Lord and renewing his strength to face each day.
Our quest to prove his innocence is stronger than ever and we were given a strange source of comfort last month. The IM was transferred to a new wing and his new roommate was a lifer for murder. The IM is a kind man and a true friend to many prisoners. Within 24 hours this man looked at him and explained that he’d been in for a long time, knew the system and he knew men. He stared the IM in the eye and said, “But I can tell ya’ now, you’re innocent!”
At the one year anniversary I’m feeling various emotions, mostly thankfulness to the Lord for walking us through the first year. I’m grateful to the Lord’s people who visit the Innocent Man, uphold him in prayers and letters and provide for his physical needs. I am still grieved that wickedness prevailed, but remind myself to trust the Lord.
As we begin year #2, I’m summoning fresh courage from the Lord.
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the Lord.
The definition of courage is “to be strong, grow strong, prevail, be secure, press, so strengthen.” It’s more than possessing strength, it’s also the process of gaining strength.
“Be of good courage” isn’t a gentle reminder or a pat answer from the Lord, it’s a command. The imperative form proves it’s not an option. We must go on, and we must go on with courage.
Those outside the bars promised the Innocent Man we we’d remain strong, so he had spiritually, mentally and physically well people to come home to. He promised to remain faithful inside the bars so we wouldn’t despair. His courage has become our courage.
“Be strong and of good courage,
do not fear nor be afraid of them;
for the Lord your God,
He is the One who goes with you.
He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
With inspiring courage from the Innocent Man and strengthening courage from the Lord my God, I will keep walking the path the Lord has allowed.
I don’t want my courage to fail again.