Last week, we sat in a cold, oppressive courtroom. Hushed words were spoken and little emotion was shown on the solemn faces of attorneys and investigators. You could almost cut through the heaviness. Sitting on the first few rows on the right side of the room, sat the defendant’s family members. Their faces were downcast and the look of pain was obvious.
We sat on the first few rows on the left side, supporting our friends. The widowed spouse, grieving parents, in laws, brothers, sisters and close friends of the deceased victim— an outstanding young man, a fireman and soon-to-be first time father, who was senselessly murdered two years ago. All because of someone’s wrong choice. The choice to break into this young couple’s home, the choice to steal their belongs…and then the choice to shoot a person, eventually taking his life.
The young man in an orange jumpsuit was escorted into the room, hands and feet in shackles. I looked at those same hands that had gripped the gun, thus begining the nightmare and heartbreak of our friends’ journey. How could he commit this horrendous act? As I listened again to every minute detail of what took place that day, it struck a chord within me. I recognized the importance of making right choices, yet I realized it goes much deeper…
Each of our choices are merely a reflection of what we are thinking. It seems God knows what He’s talking about when He says in His word, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he…” In reality, we make hundreds of choices each day. And every one of them affect other people. Yet each choice begins by a small thought. Everything we do is simply our thoughts lived out.
As the defendant heard the words, “Life in prison plus 360 (and some) months…,” I wondered what he thought about the choices he’d made. Earlier in the trial, I had glanced over and saw an elderly woman (whom I presumed was the grandma of the defendant) begin wiping tears when these words were said to the defendant by our friends, “We forgive you. We’re praying you will find Jesus.” Did Khari McClelland think about how his choices would affect his praying grandma? I doubt it.
Then as we were leaving the courtroom, we heard the deep, heart-wrenching cry, “Oh, my baby! And it nearly took my breath away, because although in a different way, I recognized that cry. That same cry mother’s cry that had once come from the very pit of my stomach. It’s the deep agonizing cry Marcus’s parents and family have also been living with, and it was the cry that also became my companion when our son unexpectedly died five years ago. But the cry I heard in the courtroom moved me in a different way. Because I know there are some things harder to live with than death. And my heart has been burdened to pray for this mother who has needed to helplessly watched the pain her son inflicted on so many individuals.
I wonder if Mr. McClelland ever thought about what his choice that morning, two years ago, would do to his mother? I doubt it.
He’d made many other wrong choices prior to this. Choices to love himself, and his “weed,” more than relationships and others’ lives. He’d chosen to think about himself and what he wanted more than his family.
Each of us can learn valuable lessons from this. And our focus needs to be on what we think about, rather than simply on our choices. We should be thinking about how to love our neighbors more than ourselves. Thinking about someone else’s feelings rather than our own.
Our world has become extremely selfish. Many crimes are committed because of the monster of greed and selfishness. Sexual assaults happen because of the same. Pornography is laced with selfish desires and disregarding loved ones. Child abuse often happens because a parent just “can’t handle” their child or loves their drugs and happiness more than the child.
How do we apply all of this? What can we do to turn this around? It starts by recognizing that we will never be able to make enough good choices, on our own, to merit anything of significant value. The only choice that has eternal value is our choice to love and follow Jesus. And when we do this, He is able to help us take our thoughts captive. This is the key to making right choices.
That day in the cold court room, I saw a beautiful, breathtaking example of making the right choices. It was when the parents and widow looked into the face of the murderer and said they choose to forgive him. I know this didn’t happen because they decided that morning to forgive him. And I know it wasn’t because they felt like forgiving him. No, it was because they had predetermined to think the thoughts that Jesus would think. And these thoughts led to this courageous act.
I was closely watching the others in the room. I saw the effect of those selfless, nearly impossible words. “We forgive you.” I saw investigators, detectives, as well as the defendant’s family wiping tears. And I pray that someday, Khari McClelland will understand the depth this came from. We pray he will find the same faith and God’s forgiveness for the choices he’s made. Does he deserve it? No. But do any of us deserve God’s forgiveness?
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)