He pleaded guilty but for legal procedural reasons the detail of the case were brought to the attention of the court.
The victim sat and heard the recounting of the series of events where she was dismantled psychologically and then abused physically. The pain she felt was keenly felt by her family who devastated to find out the truth of what she had endured for those months. Her father in particular could not hold back the tears as he heard the innocence of his dear daughter snatched away from her in a cunning, manipulative operation by a man he had formerly looked to as his friend and pastor.
The perpetrator sat solemn faced as he had to hear the façade of his once glittering career demolished as his sordid deeds behind the scenes were disclosed. His wife and two sons were in court with stony demeanours. Few were aware that they would be leaving the family home as soon as the man was charged. Many were aware, however, that he would not be returning to his six figure salary or continue in his leadership position at the church. Investigations were already taking place to see if this was the only victim or were there others. Rumours were flying that the success of this case might unleash a torrent of claims and accusations.
To recount the affair took the best part of three hours as evidence was outlined of the messages he had sent her, the meetings he had set up, the way he used deception and fear to keep the victim trapped. How something that initially appeared so beautiful was tarnished by his relentless desire to control her by intimidation and promises of apparent intimacy.
Though at first he had wanted to suggest the claims were fabricated. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that he could not hide it any longer. He could not further inflict torment on her and he had to come to terms with his own issues and pay for the crimes he had committed. He could not look at her. He could not look at anyone in her family. He could not look at his own family. He was on his own and he deserved it. The legal advice given was made to minimise the damage, but he felt that it should be confessed to the court and be left to the judge to reach a conclusion on the matter.
The judge did not mince his words in his summing up. In stinging rhetoric he remarked on the gross behaviour and the tremendous loss of trust that resulted from this man’s actions as well as the lives forever traumatised. The sentence handed down was the most stringent he was afforded by the law and despite the admission of guilt, the judge felt he could not do any less.
As he was lead out of court and taken to the cell before he was transferred to begin his sentence, his head bowed in sorrow knowing that even this would not fully bring healing to those he had hurt, he wondered about his faith. He asked himself …
What does mercy look like now, God? What does your grace for her and her loved ones look like? What does your grace look like for my family and those who trusted me, admired me, looked to me – what does your mercy look like now? Can I even experience your mercy now, God? Can I ever experience your mercy?
The sadness that filled his heart as he asked these questions and considered the ever spreading ripples and consequences of his actions. It seemed to overwhelm him as he considered what he felt would be the only right way to deal with these matters. A way that would truly bring closure and ensure no one would ever have to suffer from him again.
Meanwhile, his youngest son who still couldn’t quite work out what had just happened sat alone in his bedroom and softly cried out three words to his heavenly Father.
Lord have mercy.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden