Prepared for a Purpose
By Bennett Rolan
BSF blog editor
During her weekly leader’s meetings in South Bend, Ind., Leigh Feldman’s prayer requests are often urgent but vague. As a family court attorney referee, Leigh, a veteran group and administrative leader in the Evening Women’s Class, is legally bound to maintain a high level of confidentiality. She handles extremely sensitive cases. They often involve family dysfunction and abuse, and she carries the burdens of broken families and hurting children.
Though she is required to separate her personal faith from legal recommendations, Leigh finds hope in God, who “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3).
“I’ve really taken a different perspective on my cases,” she said. “I try to look at how Jesus handled the people He dealt with and how He tackled difficult problems. He always showed respect and love. Those are the principles I’m learning to apply.”
Having dealt with alcoholism, abuse and dysfunction in her own childhood home, Leigh’s prayer is to see litigants in the way that God does.
“Most of the people I see in court come in assuming that because I work for the government, I’m trying to make their lives worse. When they encounter respect and patience, they start to think, ‘Maybe I can trust this person,’ ” Leigh said. “They start to realize that I’m not judging them as individual people but rather decide the issue at hand. Even a small bit of extra patience or caring can go a long way in getting to a place where they are willing to comply with court orders.”
As one of the few believers in her office, Leigh’s long days can feel lonely. Though she is not able to share details about her cases, Leigh’s BSF group has become a major support.
“The biggest thing I’m always reminded of through BSF is to start with prayer,” she said. “There have been times that I’ve just fallen on my knees. I know when I send a quick text to pray, there are women who are on their knees with me.”
Leigh has seen the power of prayer as God worked in several of her more difficult cases, the worst involving severe child abuse or sexual assault. “These children have had their innocence stolen,” Leigh said. “They have to live with the emotional and physical scars of their abuse. How can I give their abusers due process or treat them fairly? I can only do it with the power of God. I’m not their judge. God is.”
In cases like these, Leigh draws from her own personal experiences to relate to her clients and develop a deeper sense of compassion. Her parents divorced when she was in elementary school, turning Leigh’s world upside-down. But her mother’s commitment to church involvement kept the family stable.
“I was at a huge risk for going down the wrong path,” Leigh said. “There was no way I could have orchestrated where I am today, it had to be God. He is using my personal understanding of broken homes. I know I’m here for a reason.”
When Leigh shares her own story with the foster kids she meets, including the fact she was the first person in her family to graduate from college, the effect is usually immediate.
“It almost always shocks them,” she said. “They typically come into court assuming I can’t relate to any part of their lives. I think I can have a lot of compassion and empathy. When they are defensive, I understand where they’re coming from. I can give them more room to be angry because I understand their frustration.”
After closing a case, Leigh often shares her office number with the children she has seen as a lifeline for those who may need additional support. “If they open the door at all, I can start to share my faith with them,” Leigh said.
“I’ve had kids bring in their report cards to show me. Another young lady went on a mission trip. She also started running and brought in the medal from her first 5k and gave it to me. I keep that medal and the thank you letters in my desk as a reminder of why God placed me in this position.”
Leigh clings to those victories because so many of the cases she hears do not end well. Parents continue to struggle with drugs and alcohol, and abused children grow up repeating the cycle. But in the midst of this brokenness, Leigh knows God is working.
“There’s a reason why not everyone needs to work in this area,” she said. “God gives me those reminders when I’m ready to give up. I can see His hand and His work in the lives of these kids.”
What can we learn from Leigh’s story?
God places His people in strategic places. He often uses difficult circumstances to prepare us to impact others for Christ. Leigh’s childhood could have held her in bondage, but God worked in the midst of her pain and suffering. And she is not afraid to share her own story of brokenness. Opening her own life to others opens doors of understanding and healing. The good news enters in!
Just as God used Joseph’s past to prepare him to save the nation of Israel in Genesis 37, He continues to prepare His people through the hard circumstances of yesterday and today. When faced with past suffering, and the brothers who sold him into slavery, Joseph said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
So, how has God prepared you for your current circumstances? How can you openly share your past experiences, including your hardships, to relate to those around you?
Leigh clings to God’s strength and deeper purpose as she shares Christ’s love with others through the family court system. How might God be calling you to engage with those around you for Jesus?
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” — Ephesians 2:10