The envelope looked official, but it could’ve just as easily been junk mail. The orange words across the top, authoritative in their capitalization, intrigued me enough to read further. “JURY SUMMONS,” it said.
Holy smokes, this is real, I thought.
I was called for Federal Jury Duty the other week. It’s a three-days-or-one-trial gig, paying $40 per day. Well, at least it’s something, but seriously, only $5 an hour to be a good citizen? It was my obligation to serve, though.
I checked the family wall calendar hanging on the inside of my pantry closet. First, I rescheduled my dentist appointment, which of course I didn’t mind. But the next day I was scheduled to meet a friend I hadn’t seen in a while—changing those plans hurt a little bit. To top it off, I’d have to mentally prepare for rush hour driving to Philadelphia, a task I managed to avoid for more than a decade. Sure, I love going to the city, but I’d lose another couple hours a day in the commute. Not fun. Maybe I can get an audiobook from the library. My mind continued to spin like the teacup ride at the summer carnivals.
The summons paperwork included detailed instructions; first, I was to look for an email the day before jury service to get an update on my status. If I didn’t receive an email, I was to call the 800 number after 5 p.m. the night before to get my final instructions for reporting.
It was 4:20 on Tuesday afternoon when my email inbox pinged.
“You do not have to report for jury service tomorrow, Wednesday, February 15,” it read, “but you are required to call the 800 number on Wednesday evening after 5 p.m. to receive your instructions for reporting on Thursday, February 16.”
Wow, they’re serious about this three-day thing.
Which made me wonder about placing three days of my life on hold, like an unbalanced warrior pose. In hindsight, three days doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough, as with the Easter story.
Day one. Jesus hung on the cross, said “It is finished” and then died. Jury service had only begun for the disciples, their grief overshadowing any perspectives beyond the first day, the first moment. I imagine they were buried under the depths of their emotions, afraid for their own lives, with no real assignments except to wait. And pray. And wait some more. In this type of waiting, coated with the pain of the unknown, time slows. The disciples must have felt unsure and unstable, a table with one of its legs needing a few napkins shoved underneath to keep it steady. They must have questioned everything: their faith, their futures, their hopes.
On Wednesday, I received another email just after 4 p.m. No service required for Thursday but I was again required to call on Thursday night for Friday’s instructions. I was finally reaching the summit of my duty to serve, the top of the mountain with the descent in sight.
But I’ve always wondered about the disciples during that day in between, what I call Day Two, the day after Jesus died and before the Easter resurrection. For me, this in-between season of waiting includes a multitude of questions. I’m wondering about health issues for my family and friends; the future for my college-age children and my own purpose in life. My soul cries out “Are you there, God?” I ask, “What about all this suffering? What’s my purpose?”
It’s as if nothing but fog appears, and I drive more slowly. I read the bible, listen to sermons, sit quietly to pray. Many days it feels as if my fog lights aren’t working. Sometimes I try using high beams instead, but they only make the fog appear whiter.
In the waiting, however, the molasses movement of time is starting to reveal a gift. These seemingly extended moments give me bonus time to connect with God more deeply in my soul.
Finally, on the third day, I received the email: “Your jury service has ended.” I breathed a sigh of relief. Fog or not, God’s presence becomes clearer in the waiting.