Redeemed…Restored

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I have been to court a number of times for a variety of reasons….to receive court ordered clients into recovery, to testify regarding someone’s progress in or completion of a program or court supervised case plan or probation, for a custody or parental rights hearing, and other reasons. But recently I had a first. A year ago I had sent a letter to the Governor and Pardons and Parole Board of another state on behalf of someone I have known for quite a while. I was able to testify in the letter to the individual’s perseverance in recovery, integrity, accountability, and other factors that I believed merited their consideration of the petitioner’s request, with supporting documentation. Finally, a year later I was asked to attend the Board’s hearing of the individual’s case. I and others gathered in the Board’s waiting room, which was packed with petitioners, family, friends, and attorneys. There was another room where parties objecting to petitioners’ pardons were waiting, too. We were not aware of any who might be objecting to our petitioner’s request. The process seemed interminably slow, but upon reflection, I realized that the Board was calling in a new case about every 15 minutes. After several hours I heard the name of the petitioner on whose behalf I had come to testify. We were cautioned before entering not to react to the Board’s decision, regardless of what it was…..no expressions of disappointment or anger and none of joy and celebration. We had prayed together in the hallway before entering, as much for the calming of our collective nerves as for God’s favor with the Board. The petitioner had prepared a lengthy typed statement. Mine, written out by hand on a notepad, was about 2 minutes, as I believed I had made my best case in the letter the previous year. When we were seated before the Board the petitioner was asked to step forward. Asking how much time was allowed, one of the Board members replied, “5 minutes or so,” as I recall. My heart skipped a beat. Would the petitioner be able to make the case in that time? I should not have doubted it at all. The petitioner showed great poise and professionalism in addressing the Board’s question, “Why should we grant you a pardon?” and was well within an appropriate timeframe. Members of the Board put their heads together and whispered briefly among themselves. We held our breath. They asked who the others of us were and acknowledged that they understood our presence to be in support of the petitioner. And with that brief exchange, one member said, “Your petition for full pardon of all charges is granted.” There was a collective gasp at the table. None of us had expected it to be that swift and unchallenged. The petitioner was complimented by the Board for the excellent work done in life reformation and in “paying it forward”, as one member said. We were dismissed and hurried out of the room to collapse together in a group hug with tears and joyful laughter at the wonderful news. Those of us who had come for support and the petitioner all went to a late lunch and expressed our gratitude to God for all that had been accomplished in the life of the petitioner and the family. It was one of the most moving moments I’ve experienced as a life recovery counselor, watching a life redeemed not only before God but before the institutions with authority to wipe a slate clean. What an affirming experience to see that faithfulness in the cause of transformation can indeed yield a life made new!

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