In the midst of legal proceedings regarding my assault, I find myself often pondering what mercy truly means? We are always called to forgiveness. God is always merciful and truly just. On earth we have the justice system, which serves a good and necessary purpose. How and where do all of these things intersect when faced with the reality of calling one of your brother men to earthly justice? Where is earthly justice’s place? And where is the place for my forgiveness and God’s mercy?
It was an arduous, drawn out over several months, prayerful decision when I initially reported my assault to the police. I had literally been broken by my rapist’s acts; and yet, I knew that nothing that could happen to him or not happen to him through our legal system would heal that brokenness and mend the damage that was done. Only my own perseverance in taking each new day as an opportunity to grow and change, humility in admitting that I couldn’t do it alone and seeking counsel from professional counselors and advocates, as well as the support of my family and friends, and God’s grace were going to move the mountains of hurt inside of me.
I also knew, though, that we can never know the heart of another. And I would never truly know if other women would be in danger because I said nothing. Lastly, I knew that ALL things are better in the Light. Truth, goodness, beauty, life, love, happiness, all reside in the light and only deceit, shame, and all forms of evil remain in the dark. Through guidance and counsel, I knew that I needed to at least report the crime as it happened. To bring it to the light. From there, I decided to take it, as I take life, one step at a time.
A close friend of mine put it well, when I was sharing with him about my anxiety over the court case. He quoted scripture saying, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s.” In this I take my refuge. The weight of my assailant’s soul does not rest upon my shoulders. Neither does the weight of his sentencing. I shall give to the State what is the State’s to have, my testimony of the crime and allow the legal process to do what it does best and surrender to the results. Likewise, I shall hand over to God the man who hurt me, for I could never hope to know his heart and why he made the choices he made that night.
So, it seems that what I first believed to be polarized opposites incapable of coinciding, can in fact cohabitate.
I CAN live in forgiveness and desire his conversion AND follow through with the legal proceedings that will determine how the State handles his crime, with neither contradicting the other.
It remains my hope that hearts will be changed through this process.