Uh…No Thank You
Anybody who knows me knows I have spent most of my working life in the legal field as a court stenographer or paralegal /investigator. I could write a book on the peculiar cases I’ve been involved with over forty-plus years. I spent more time than I care to think of going from prison to prison taking testimony in habeas proceedings where prisoners were making yet another plea to be cut loose (and most needed to remain right where they were). I still hear the heavy metal gates clanging shut behind me, going from one cell block to another, and the hoots and calls that accompanied each step. I remember praying just to get out of there before some incident occurred. Not my favorite part of the job.
There were heart-wrenching civil cases of people losing loved ones in automobile accidents, house fires, riverboat and rail car accidents, and tragic equipment failures, to name a few. I’ve marked as exhibits horrendous photographs and pieces of evidence, and come away with my share of bad dreams. I watched helplessly as a man scheduled to testify in court slumped to the gallery floor in cardiac distress. The bailiff and the judge tried frantically to help him. He passed away right then and there and the shades of his cyanotic blue face haunt me still.
But there were also lighter, almost comical days, too… like the one where a guy claiming a debilitating back injury that prevented him from working had been caught dead to rights on video carrying heavy automotive equipment all around his father’s junkyard. When confronted with the video, he said sheepishly, “Now, I’ll admit that guy looks a lot like me.” Yeah, bud, that’s because it WAS you. Kiss that verdict goodbye.
Then there was the guy recovering from injury who was being questioned as to his ability to be retrained for another job. He was asked if he knew what his IQ was, to which he responded, “Well, far as I know, it’s 20/20.” I’m pretty sure that guy has a government job somewhere now.
But one case still stands out to me as the most bizarre thing I ever heard. It was a case where a middle-aged man sued a prominent hospital for destroying his leg…. and, no, not by malpractice. He had been brought to the hospital with a hopelessly gangrenous leg which had to be amputated. I remember sitting there taking his testimony and hoping my face was not conveying the shock and disgust that were playing leapfrog in my head as he unfurled his bitter diatribe.
His complaint was that the hospital had, without his knowledge and consent, incinerated his severed limb…his own personal left lower appendage. The defense argued at length that all pathological and biohazard protocols had to be observed and that incineration as medical waste was the prescribed course. He wanted, of course, to be compensated for the destruction of his left lower limb, for being deprived of his personal private property, and for the mental pain and anguish that such deprivation had caused him. He said it was HIS and he had intended to keep it. Yes. Nasty, rotting, putrid, stinking thing that it was….and he wanted to keep it.
Honestly, even now, I can’t fathom such a thing. Not to be crude or insensitive, but I remember thinking, “What was he going to do with it, make an umbrella stand? Stick a lampshade on it and display it in the window like the “major prize” in A Christmas Story? I mean, seriously, I cannot imagine a more macabre, ghoulish, grotesque conversation piece. Uh, no thank you.
It’s easy to point to this misguided gentleman as a stand-alone kook whose eccentricities were more than a bit off the chart. But when you think about it, we all have, to one degree or another, the same capacity to want to hold on to things we should have long since let go of….things like envy, jealousy, pride, anger, bitterness, resentment and addictive habits that hold us fast.
Proverbs 14:30 (NIV) says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” That’s not a pretty picture, is it? Yet we continually feed envy and jealousy by comparing ourselves to someone else. We live on Facebook, comparing our “staycation” in the backyard to their ten days in an Italian villa…comparing their Humvee to our humdrum and coming away discontent.
Pride seems like one of those “little white sins” that appears to hurt no one but the sinner, but in reality, may manifest itself as a lack of compassion for others. It can lead to being unapologetic or unable to accept responsibility for one’s own actions, and attitudes which can destroy relationships. It’s no wonder then the Lord tells us, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall”, and it’s one of the things that God Himself hates. Let it go.
Some have held too long to habits that demand their attention. They cling to the nasty, filthy, stinking things that only serve to bind, hound, and remind them of their failures. Even when they consider laying them down, that nasty habit taps them on the shoulder and says, “Surely, you don’t want to part with me, after all we’ve been through together. You need me.” No, you don’t. Let it go.
Anger, bitterness, and resentment are the three emotional cousins, so closely related. They all share the DNA of hurt. Hurt is that puncture wound from a sudden careless word. It is that deep cut of repeated mistreatment that widens over time as the distance grows between wound and healing. The longer it goes untreated, the more it festers and the nastier it becomes, flowing with corruption. Let it go.
You know, one thing that I found interesting about our ill-advised friend is that he found an attorney willing to take on his ludicrous case…. willing to stand before a judge and accuse the hospital of wrongdoing, while declaring the man’s right to bring such a case and expect compensation.
Doesn’t the devil do that, too? Here he comes with his file of justifications as to why you have a right to hold on to your bitterness and resentment, your envy and pride, your nasty habits. He is ever so happy to remind you that you are entitled to feel exactly as you do and also entitled to keep feeling that way, because, after all, look at what so and so did to you. It’s amazing to me that the man I’m telling you of had been successfully parted from the thing that was threatening his very existence, and yet he couldn’t let it go.
I’m told that among the Romans’ repertoire of gruesome punishments was the custom of shackling the convicted murderer to the dead body of his victim, eye to eye, hand to hand, etc. No one, under any circumstances, was allowed to uncouple them. The killer lived out the rest of his life chained to the decaying corpse and bathed in its stench until he himself began to rot away. Oh, to be free.
Perhaps it is this Paul had in mind when he talked in Romans 7 of his desire to do good, but evil being present with him. And then he says something remarkable…”O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…” It is through Jesus Christ that we are delivered and the wretched things can finally be left behind.
So…I went on to other cases and I never heard the final outcome of the trial, but I suspect the gentleman learned to live without that thing he thought he needed and went on to live a better life, and we can, too, through faith in Christ.