Three months ago, I spent the morning in a courtroom with my 19-year-old son, Chandler. Although he was of the age that the court now treats him as an adult, I went along for moral support. About a year ago, he went through a tough emotional period due to some huge personal intrusions into his life, and had taken his frustration out in his driving, ending up with three speeding tickets along with a fourth one we were in the courtroom for which was for driving on a suspended license, which in California is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail. We were prepared for anything including huge fines and maybe not getting his license back for years.
The fact that Chandler was even in the courtroom was a huge step forward for him. Up until then he had refused to go before the judge, his solution to the inevitable encounter being he would just leave the country. But his attitude had changed to where he was ready to admit that he was in the wrong, had acted foolishly, and was willing to submit to whatever the judge deemed appropriate.
But before he even got before the judge, a man from the District Attorney’s office called out the names of six people, Chandler included, and asked them to follow him outside the courtroom where he formed them into a little circle in the hallway and proceeded to give them an offer they couldn’t refuse. If they were willing to plead guilty and do three things, the charges against all six would be dismissed: 1) give a DNA sample, 2) attend one 6-hour class, and 3) keep a clean record for three months of probation. Chandler was so prepared for the worst that he didn’t even know how to receive this at first.
I was actually concerned that he might balk at having his cheek swabbed for a DNA sample. Chandler is a very private person with a big-brother-is-watching-you attitude towards government, but no, he took it — proof that he has decided it’s time to comply with the authorities and get on with his life plan. So he filled out a few forms and signed some papers and we went back inside the courtroom for the judge to make it official.
I must say, this judge must have been on his last day before vacation or he was just a born comedian who decided to make his job fun, but he was cracking jokes all morning. Like when someone said they would call the DMV, he said, “Good luck. I started a call to the DMV 30 years ago,” implying he was still on hold.
Here’s the embarrassing part. When the judge called up Chandler and two others to the stand, I went too. I’d been shadowing Chandler all morning; it seemed only right. I must admit, I felt a little like Jesus with Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace.
The judge looked up, took a second look and said, “Wait a minute. I thought I called up three people; who are you? Are you an attorney?”
“No, I’m the father,” I said.
“Step back, please. Your son’s old enough to speak for himself.”
I slunk back to my seat feeling like an idiot, but in time to hear the judge not only repeat the terms of the dismissal but suspend the other three tickets as well. In one sweep, the judge expunged Chandler’s record. Chandler was so well-rehearsed that even after hearing this he brought up community service — something we were hoping initially might reduce the sentence and lower the fine, and the judge laughed. “If you really want to, I can assign you some hours, but right now all charges are suspended. Keep your nose clean and I’ll see you back here in three months to dismiss this case.”
Those three months were up last week, and Chandler went back again with a certificate of the completed class and a compliant probation. I stayed in my seat this time while Chandler went forward to hear the magic words, “Case dismissed.”
What a feeling!
It was impossible not to think about one day appearing before the Judge of the universe and hearing the charges against us met by a final proclamation of God’s grace through our advocate, Jesus Christ, and hearing those very same words, “Case dismissed!”
But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:1-2