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It’s important that we who follow Jesus Christ say “yes” to God.
This is me with our oldest daughter, Lindsey. She was killed on July 11, 2016 in an accident caused by a driver impaired by drugs and alcohol. He was sentenced to six years in jail on July 12, 2016.
When the District Attorney called me, he asked if anyone in our family would want to read a “Victim Impact Statement.” Immediately, I felt the Lord nudge my heart and I said, “Yes.”
I’ve learned over the last two years the importance of saying “yes” to God. “Yes, I will forgive.” “Yes, I trust You.” “Yes, I believe in the greatness of Your love and Your power to redeem the most terrible situations.”
It wasn’t hard to say “yes,”because Jesus has proved Himself to me so many times.
Although I knew the weight of reading the statement in court would be heavy, I know that what the Lord calls us to do, He enables us to do. So, I went to Houston.
Family and friends were there to support me, and to be there for Lindsey. Mother’s Against Drunk Driving provided an amazingly kind man, Julio, to set things up and be supportive through the process. The courtroom was filled with people who were being sentenced to prison. Family members and friends sat with them. As we waited for the judge to come in, I saw the man responsible for Lindsey’s death with his friends and family.
As I sat in the back of the crowded room, I started to worry. My prepared statement was almost like a sermon. What if the judge ordered me to stop reading? I prayed that the Lord would give me the strength and words if that happened and pushed away the anxiety.
Reminding myself that God always keeps His promises, I knew I had nothing to fear.
When I was called up to the witness stand, I took up the sheaf of papers and a journal I’d kept for Lindsey over the years. Directed to the witness seat next to the judge, I sat facing the young man responsible for my daughter’s death. My voice cracked in sorrow as I read the first sentence into the microphone, but strength filled my heart and I spoke the words I’d prayed over.
My youngest sister was in the back row. She said that the room grew completely still. People nodded their heads, some wept out loud, while a few women raised their hands like they were in church. I only saw the young man in front of me.
Immediately, I saw the good that came from saying, “Yes,” to God.
Outside of the courtroom, the court coordinator came out to talk with me. She said that in 20+ years of victim’s advocacy, it was the best statement she ever heard, because there was no anger in it. Hugging me, she said there were many in the courtroom who needed to hear what I’d read. Later, I found out that she had asked the judge for permission to leave the courtroom to speak to me. Another woman came up to me and told me that she had prayed for the young man for years to give his life over to Jesus. Through tears, she expressed gratitude that God had provided another witness to this troubled young man.
I left the courthouse with four young adults and headed for a local coffee house and we talked about Lindsey, and Jesus, and the good news of the Gospel-such a privilege! Weeks later, back in Washington state where I live, I was shocked when I had to call a neighbor about his puppy getting in the street. After sharing my concerns for her safety, he said he wanted to change the subject. Somehow, he’d read the impact statement on Facebook. His sister had been killed in an accident years before Lindsey. His voice broke as he said those words had encouraged him and given him hope. Thanking me, he asked if we could meet and “hug it out.”
I was amazed! How many others were encouraged with the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
God can make much out of one act of saying, “Yes.”
Below are the words I spoke in court, if you’d like to read them:
“Two years ago, yesterday, I received a phone call from a woman who bluntly told me that my daughter had been thrown off the back of a motorcycle and plunged over the side of the freeway ramp where her body smashed to the ground. She didn’t die right away, but suffered what had to be agonizing misery. I sobbed uncontrollably as she spoke, and woke my son, Kerry, with my cries. The worst duties faced me as I had to tell Lindsey’s brothers, sisters, father and other family and friends that she died, and how. Kerry drove me forty minutes away to my husband’s office so that I could tell him the worst news in person; his oldest child had been killed. Far and away that day, July 11th, 2016 was the most horrific day of our lives.
We have suffered terrible losing Lindsey, but we have been greatly comforted in our faith in Jesus Christ. Lindsey accepted Jesus as her Savior when she was two years old. As a child, and as a young teen, she loved Him and followed Him. Like many, she became caught up in the world and lived in a way very far from the life Jesus calls His followers to life. Thankfully, to those who put their faith in Jesus, He promises that nothing and no one can “snatch them out of His hands,” and that He is a faithful Shepherd who will go and find the lost sheep and bring them safely home. He never loses what is His, because He promised that He would neither leave us, nor forsake us.
As friends and family helped me clean Lindsey’s apartment, one of them found a journal I’d kept for her from her toddler days through high school. In its pages were entries about her faith in Jesus: such as the day she’d prayed for Him to be her Savior, insisting on praying “all by herself.” There were other entries about her faith over the years: her baptism, her witnessing to her grandparents, and two dreams. I sat on the couch reading and remembering her intense response to the first of theses dreams, a nightmare.
In the nightmare, she was stuck in quicksand, sinking rapidly in the clutching sand despite her attempts to get out. Satan stood opposite to her and was mocking her vain efforts to break free. I recalled how terrified this dream made her. She had to sleep in my bedroom for several days, and talked about it many times, needing reassurance and prayer.
Not too many days later, she came into my room early in the morning and described another dream. In it, she was in a beautiful white dress and Jesus carried her to Heaven. She sat next to me in bed and talked about how amazing it was and how the new dream made the bad one lose its fearfulness, because it was so good.
I read those entries in the journal to my friends and family at Lindsey’s apartment. My sister-in-law remarked that God had given Lindsey a “foreshadowing” of her life. Amazingly, after her memorial service, many of her friends stood in a long line to speak to our family. One, a young woman, said that she and Lindsey had spent many nights together talking about how they wanted to live in freedom with Jesus. She said they both felt caught up in their lifestyles and were burdened by the guilt it produced.
I can imagine no greater tragedy than causing the death of another human being. Lindsey’s family had many lovely, beautiful, and hilarious memories of her, and the certainty of seeing her again because of our shared faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ. You must carry the burden of seeing her broken and suffering on that roadside. No amount of jail time is going to erase that sight, or change that reality.
You lied to the police about the accident. You lied to my children, telling them on the phone that you’d only had one beer. Lies may cover reality for a while, but the Bible states quite clearly that your “sins will find you out.”
I do not stand here in judgment of you; I have forgiven you. Justice, put in place by God to govern society will sentence you today.
But one day, each of us will stand before God’s justice. The Bible identifies Jesus as the Person of the Trinity who will judge us. There is a record kept of all our deeds and an eternity in the place Jesus describes as burning fire and great darkness, full of terrible, lonely suffering. The Bible makes a clear, irrefutable case that every single human being stands condemned before holy God. Not one of us is righteous. Not one of us seeks after God. But God, while we were still His enemies, while we were still sinners, sent His Son, Jesus, to become one of us-human, but without sin.
Jesus lived a perfect life while here on earth. He is God, and did things only God could do: healed the blind, made deaf ears hear, made the lame walk and raised the dead. He also forgave sin. He could do that because He satisfied the demands of Justice for every human being as He died on the cross. As He gave up His life, He said a phrase in Aramaic that is translated, “paid in full.” In that sacrifice, the Judge took the sentence for every defendant who will accept the gift of His pardon. For any who will turn to Him, Jesus becomes their Advocate instead of their Judge. He paid the penalty of every lawless act, every selfish, vain thing we’ve done. His blood was the price and His resurrection the victorious evidence of its acceptance in place of our guilt and shame.
God doesn’t force this gift on anyone. He offers it freely to all. Each of us has this lifetime to choose whether or not we’ll take that gift. I hope that you take the gift of salvation and forgiveness Jesus offers and that you will use the time you serve in prison to grow in faith. There is freedom, even in prison, for those who follow Jesus Christ.
I came here to speak, because I know that Lindsey-home in Heaven-taken there just as her dream foretold many years ago, would want you to choose life with Jesus. Instead of condemnation, she would want you to find forgiveness, mercy, grace and love. I am here as her spokesperson, asking you to consider what living to please yourself has resulted in here today: a grieving family and friends who desperately miss her-and your own guilt. I’m sure she would tell you not to waste anymore of your life, because no one knows when this life will end and we will either be called to account for all of our unrighteous deeds by the most holy Judge, or be escorted into Heaven by our Advocate and Savior.”