Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Struggle to Extend Grace and Find Peace

The words of Shaniya Davis' father, Bradley Lockhart, resonated with me. Friday night, I watched an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show that had been recorded earlier that day. I was watching to see what she had to say about the end of her long running talk show. I didn't expect to hear more about the adorable 5 year old girl who was found brutally murdered earlier this month.

I watched this young man, obviously and understandibly, in deep pain as he struggles simply to get past this inexplicably horrible moment. And yet, when Oprah asked him whether he wanted to speak to the young girl's mother for answers as to why she allegedly sold the baby as a sex slave to a Mario Andretti McNeil, a known violent criminal, his answer revealed a heart struggling to find grace...

"Bradley says he may speak with Davis one day, but not now. "I just think that it's best that we let the justice system take its course," he says. "I try to keep my heart as pure as possible and I'm sure one day I will be able to sit down and talk to her and try to understand what was going through her mind." When asked what he'd like to see happen to McNeill, Bradley says the outcome is not up to him. "It's in the Lord's hands now, and the justice system's, and he's got to come to grips and repent for his actions," he says. "I know the grace of the Lord and if he's sincere within his heart, he'll be able to move forward with his guilt.""

His answer resonates with me because I saw this recorded episode after returning home from the fourth day of the trial of the woman who murdered my son.

It was a difficult four days, to say the least.

The mixture of desire for revenge and the struggle to avoid feelings of hatred for Jason's (my son) wife, who has admitted to the killing is greater than any emotional challenge I or my family have ever faced before. Sitting through the trial, watching the defense attorney do his job, while at the same time listening to Jason's character being defamed and his flaws exaggerated can be, at times, unbearably hurtful.

Of course the nature of courtroom trials is equally challenging - you pass the accussed in hallways, end up in line with them in the court cafeteria, meet the glances of her supporters and family - it can be surreal to say the least.

Jason was killed more than two years ago. This father's pain is tragically fresh. We had Jason for 33 wonderful years; he had his daughter for only 5; Jason had lived too long for us to speak of his perfection; Shaniya had not lived long enough for anyone to speak of her as anything but innocent; Jason's death was senseless; young Shaniya's death was heinous beyond comprehension; the trial for Jason's killer is not quite finished and our families' trail is not nearly over; Bradley Lockhart's trials are just beginning; Jason was a young man who had found his passion - he was a swing dance instructor. He was gaining a national reputation for his dance prowess, having been given the nickname, 'The Black Butterfly'; we are left to wonder in sorrow what Shaniya would have become.

Even with these differences, I understand some of Bradley Lockhart's pain.

Yet, somehow I believe that if Bradley Lockhart can summon up the faith to respond with such a wonderfully mature faith in this heart rending moment, then maybe the rest of us can too.


Anonymous said...

Gerald, thank you for sharing this. I too saw that piece on Oprah and heard the father's words - as he clearly struggled to find grace and compassion and to avoid the bottomless pit of rage. His face showed the struggle, as did his voice. Yet, I honor him, as you do, for setting his course in the direction he wants to go in, although it may be months, years or a lifetime before he feels the peace he seeks. I didn't know you were going through this too. I'm sorry you are having to go through it. It's tough stuff. You're in my prayers.


Larry James said...

Powerful, personal, we're holding you and your entire family in our prayers, my brother.