Turnaround in a contentious jury deliberation

In seemingly intractable conflicts, whether large or small, relying on the divine Mind for guidance opens the way for a just, merciful, and harmonious outcome.

As I ponder a divided political landscape, I often think about an experience that taught me about healing division. Seeing how prayer brought resolution to a contentious jury deliberation strengthened my conviction that turning to God to heal seemingly intractable conflicts is practical in any situation, large or small.

Some years ago I was elected foreperson of a jury. When the testimony had concluded and we polled the members to see where everyone stood, we were split almost down the middle. We decided to go around the room and explain our opinions. I thought it would be helpful for me to be both firm and clear about mine, so I strongly stated what I felt should be the outcome of the case.

The moment I staked out my position I could sense the other jury members hardening in their opinions. Indeed, individual members began to get quite loud and insistent regarding their points of view. The day wore on, and tensions rose high. At one point, a man even picked up his chair and pounded the ground with it repeatedly. I went home that night very discouraged, and I endeavored to listen for God’s guidance.

The understanding that Christian Science has given me of the nature of God was extremely helpful in this situation. In the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy enlarges the reader’s sense of Deity by describing God as Mind. She explains that the attributes of Mind include wisdom, discernment, and intelligence, and that because God created man in His image, we all reflect the infinite qualities of Mind. My prayers affirmed that I and everyone else on the jury reflected these God-given qualities.

Christ Jesus’ life and works show that, in fact, the divine Mind is the only real Mind. For instance, he said, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).

I thought about Mrs. Eddy’s own experience endeavoring to follow Jesus’ teachings. Once, when facing a difficult legal challenge, she turned to God as she always did, trusting that divine Mind would produce a just outcome. She wrote to one of her students: “There is but one God, one infinite Mind, there is no law but the divine and this law reigns and rules this hour. Let us know this and rejoice – know that the judge of the whole earth will do right” (Irving C. Tomlinson, “Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy,” p. 210).

That night I prayed for the humility to make no further attempts to sway an individual juror’s thoughts or opinions, but to trust that God would move the entire jury in the right direction according to His wisdom. I took to heart this instruction from Science and Health: “it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one” (pp. 82-83).

I returned the next day and decided that we needed to “reset” the room. I suggested to my fellow jury members that we let the evidence speak to all of us rather than try to persuade one another to adopt our point of view. I could feel the tension in the room gradually lift. We asked the court reporter to read nearly the entire transcript back to us, over the course of nearly a week. Everyone began to listen carefully to what had actually been said.

The work of reviewing all the court testimony was not easy, but I felt divine Mind, the one Mind, leading all of us. As we listened with a more open thought, it became clear that the testimony had a certain logic to it that had not been evident before. We finally concluded with a unanimous decision – one with which we were all at peace. In addition, I saw that as we rely on Mind, or divine Truth, to guide us, avenues for both mercy and justice appear. Both these qualities were present in the judge’s final remarks.

This experience opened my thought to an important lesson about healing division: It isn’t a matter of forcing one’s own ideas on another, but rather of having the humility to yield to the divine Mind in a given situation. This opens the way for truly just and merciful results.

Adapted from an article published in the Oct. 8, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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