I Press On . . .
BY PASTOR TONY REA | DECEMBER 28, 2020
Located on the roof of One Times Square in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, the New Year’s Eve ball drop is a prominent part of the celebration of a new year. As the final seconds tick off the current year’s clock, a ball descends down a specially designed flagpole and rests at midnight to signal the start of a brand-new year. Revelers and party seekers began celebrating the start of the new year in Times Square as early as 1904, but it was 113 years ago, in 1907, when the yearly New Year's Eve tradition of the ball drop embarked on its maiden voyage.
When asked the significance of such an event, Kansas City Star syndicated columnist William E. Vaughan wrote, “On New Year’s Eve, an optimist stays up until midnight to welcome the new year in, a pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”
I laughed when I read that quote a few days ago; but I must admit, even as an optimist, if there was ever a year I personally wanted to exit center stage as quickly as possible, it would have to be 2020. By faith (knowing all things work together for good), I’m sure 2020 has some redeeming qualities. I pray God will reveal the significance of them to me in days to come.
In the meantime, I’m just going to go with what Paul had to say in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on…”
That’s my personal goal for 2021—not getting stuck in a 2020 mentality but pressing on in God. I’m talking about embracing the grace necessary to get past the adversity we have all experienced during the last twelve months and firmly taking hold of every promising opportunity God has for us in the next twelve. And as you well know, with God His mercies are new every morning.
Recently I happened to run into a gal I hadn’t seen in several years. She told me she was reading my blog and appreciated the episodes, but she mentioned she really enjoyed the police stories. I encouraged her to keep reading because who knows, one day I may slip in another police story (smile).
After securing a rather impressive drug arrest in the infamous Cass Corridor at the corner of Second and Selden, I was called to testify at the jury trial of the defendant. The man we arrested had been conducting drug business in the 13th Precinct for many years. My partner and I came into contact with him on many different occasions. We knew he was involved in heroin street sales, but somehow he was always able to avoid prosecution. Finally we caught him in the act, and we had an airtight case against him. I was the main witness as the arresting officer who observed his criminal activity.
At the trial, the defense attorney came after me hard. He challenged my arrest and evidence procedure, attacked my character, and insinuated I wasn’t telling the truth. Keep in mind, since there was such overwhelming evidence against his client, his main job was to discredit my testimony in front of the jury.
About mid-way through the testimony, the defense attorney requested a white board and asked me to draw a picture of the arrest scene. Since the drug confiscation and arrest took place at the rear of an apartment building, the defense attorney wanted me to sketch the street and include all the buildings.
This was an extremely easy assignment for me since I knew the area like the back of my hand. I patrolled this exact intersection multiple times during my normal shifts, and I was very familiar with it. I outlined Selden street, detailed out all the buildings, and then drew a stick man where the defendant was standing. I then proceeded to give a comprehensive narrative of the arrest.
I finished telling my side of the story and was excused from the witness stand. On my way out of the courtroom the prosecutor thanked me for my testimony and stated he would let me know the outcome. He said there were additional defense witnesses to be called, but he was sure my testimony did the trick; more likely than not, the jury would return a guilty verdict and put this guy away.
Imagine my surprise, scratch that, imagine my shock when a few days later, I learned the jury found the defendant not guilty. I could not believe it. I called the prosecutor and asked him, “What happened, how could the jury get it wrong?”
He responded by saying, “Do you really want to know?” He said, “Your drawing of the Selden Street crime scene was inaccurate. You included in your sketch a store building that doesn’t exist, and that created reasonable doubt for the jury.”
I was devastated! I hung up the phone and couldn’t believe what I just heard. How did I get it wrong? How could I have made such a huge mistake? Now, because of me, a hardened criminal was back on the street. It took me a while to get over that one. I was so humiliated I purposely avoided going into the courtroom as a police witness. After several months of beating myself up, I finally swallowed my pride and concluded my over-confident attitude caused the blunder. I decided to use the experience as a reflection tool and was determined to do things differently the next time.
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on…