During my first mini-vacation from my fledgling business, I took my daughter to the mountains, where I always find solace. For me, there is no greater joy than being surrounded by vast hills and trees; and for both of us, it is icing on the cake if those hills and trees are full of artistic energy.
One of the weird things I do—as what you might call a “non-practicing converted Catholic”—is to go to mass out of town. I have hesitated for most of my adult life to join a local parish. I am a notorious loner. That said, there is something about being out of town among strangers, where the only connection to them and to that place is the liturgy and the tradition that binds every Catholic all over the world on that particular date, that feeds my soul in a way I just don’t find at home.
On this particular weekend, I felt deeply insecure. I wasn’t making any money yet, and bills were flooding in. Had I made a mistake in opening my own small-town practice? I knew there were local people who needed help. I had already seen so much of it while working on the prosecution side: people had deep, complex problems for which they needed a champion. And most of those people had little to no money. But because I am a poor person myself, I wondered whether I would be smarter to alter my business model, to seek out clients who could afford a higher fee, or even to cut my losses altogether and take a regular job somewhere.
I was wrestling with all these things even as I got on my knees in our vacation cathedral. I prayed for guidance and for relief from this burden. And as often happens, the Lord answered me in the form of that day’s liturgy.
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. . .. When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14: 1, 7-14
I knew then that my prayer had been answered. I had chosen the right path, helping those who could not afford to pay me back. I was doing the work Jesus had called us to do.
As the weeks wore on, I continued to see that God was putting people in my path whom I could serve in His image. Sometimes, He was putting me in their path as well. There were people charged with crimes who had perhaps done wrong, but who were simply living up to society’s expectations of them; they needed to know someone expected more. There were addicts whose problems almost exclusively began with grief and a lack of real connection to others; they needed someone to connect with their grief and to give them hope that they could adapt to sadness without giving in to addiction. There were families who had been torn apart by evil forces they could not fight alone; they needed someone to take up a sword and fight alongside them.
There were other things happening, however, that were not so positive. Just this week, in fact, I was taken aside by someone who carried a warning. “You are alienating judges and prosecutors. They say they don’t want to work with you. Some judges are going to stop appointing you because you are too intense . . . you come on too strong.” There were other criticisms, and some reports of “factual” information that simply hadn’t happened. It was shocking to me as a person who holds others to a high standard, but who also attempts to use kindness before resorting to battle. How could there be so much animosity toward me in such a short time?
This message ate away at me. How would I keep my doors open if not for appointed work? Was I just not right for this rural area? Were people in government only pretending to be kind to me in return?
And then it hit me: I didn’t come here to make friends. I am purposeful in my actions: I don’t join clubs or civic organizations. I don’t belong to sororities or churches. I don’t place my own reputation above the work I do for clients. I don’t factor “effect on my career” into case strategy—ever. So perhaps this news is not bad at all. Perhaps I am where I was meant to be. Perhaps this is where the battle begins.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:10-18
In the same day this individual delivered a warning about my reputation with the “rulers and authorities,” I received messages from clients.
“You are the first appointed lawyer who has ever come to see me in jail and really listened to me.”
“You were like Jeremiah . . .. You’re there for people in your community when no one else would be . . . thank God they have you to stand next to them.”
“I am so glad we have you on our side. Thank you.”
I realized I should have been singularly focused on the messages of those whom God put in my path. I didn’t become a lawyer to win favor with elected officials, with police, or with people who work inside the law for a paycheck. I didn’t become a lawyer to make money (though perhaps I would welcome that side effect—I’m not gonna lie). I didn’t become a lawyer to hang out with other lawyers. I followed this path because I know what it is to be under attack by “all the flaming arrows of the evil one” in the form of the government and police. I know how it feels to be crushed under the weight of your own sadness and despair. I built this suit of armor to take up that fight.
You do not have to be a Christian to ask me for help. You don’t have to have any faith at all. You do not have to be from a “good” family or have a name in this town. You don’t have to be innocent—none of us is. You do not have to deserve my help. But you do have to ask for help.* That is always the first step. I will be right over here, the girl with the sword and the shield.
*(Please note that this is not a promise of representation. I have ethical and financial obligations to meet that may prevent me from being your attorney; but, the only way to find that out is for you to ask.)
(And as always, the above clip is copyrighted material not owned by me, but by those who own it, with more information available at its location on YouTube.)
--(Oh and also, I did not actually write the Bible.)