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  • Staci Sweet

What the Execution of Nate Woods Taught Me

Tuesday while scrolling on IG, I saw a post from writer, civil rights activist, and co-founder of the Real Justice PAC1, Shaun King, requesting all hands-on deck to help a death row inmate. Because a part of my call is to pray for the incarcerated, I briefly looked over the post and sought the Lord inwardly. I didn’t have a peace, so I decided that during my next prayer time, I’d intercede.

Wednesday night, after reading up on his case, I prayed but still had no peace. I use the word peace because in the absence of it, it's impossible to have faith, which meant for some reason, I just didn’t have a peace or the faith to believe that he wouldn’t be executed. Thinking I was probably tired, I made it a point to really pray about him Thursday morning. I mean on my knees, in tongues, with a Puffs™ tissue in hand, pray for him. And sure enough, God reminded me of a confession He once gave me:

“Thank You Heavenly Father for anointing the eyes of the Governor and judges to see and their ears to hear the truth.”

That’s when I saw that since He’s anointing their eyes and ears, they’ll see and hear the truth. They’ll review the evidence and find it clear and convincing. Then I was reminded of Hebrews 4:12, ‘For the word of God is quick and powerful…’ Since it is, it’ll be quick enough to work for a last-minute reprieve and powerful enough for a last-minute stay.

By this time, I had the faith that I didn’t have the night before and baby I was on it! I was confessing, posting, tweeting, and journalling. In my journal, I told the Lord that I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I did know, that in the few hours of hearing about this man, He’d used him to help me to see something in the Word that I’d never seen. I told God that if Nate did that for me, then surely he could do the same for others. The timestamp in my journal was 9:32am.

Fast forward 12 hours, and Nate was executed. Though the courts issued a temporary stay, Governor Kay Ivey denied him clemency and at 9:01 pm CST, he died by lethal injection. Ironically, at the time of his death, I was editing my latest book, ‘Crime, Criminals, and Redemption’ when I came across the chapter entitled, ‘Mercy Over Judgement’. As my eyes scanned the title, I was reminded of James 2:13. ‘For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.’ Immediately I thought, “Governor Ivey had the opportunity to be merciful, yet she chose judgment.’ That’s when God showed me something that forever changed me. Demanding Justice vs. Asking For Mercy

He showed me that we, the public and activists, were DEMANDING JUSTICE, when we should have ASKED FOR MERCY. Demanding forced the Governor into a corner where she had to defend herself and stand her ground. Had we asked for mercy, she could have stood on her principles and made the decision that would have sufficed both Black activists and White supremist. Explaining that she decided to be merciful instead of giving into the demands for justice, could have possibly satisfied both sides. Had she have chosen mercy, then both sides would have been like the men who wanted to stone the woman caught in the act adultery. We all would have walked away with our stones in our hands. Yet as a people, we're left with a sense of defeat because yet another Black man was put to death for a crime he didn’t commit.

So why did God remind me of that confession? So that the next Governor would hear and see clear and convincing evidence for the next Black man. So that we would remember that His Word is quick enough to work for a last-minute reprieve and powerful enough for a last-minute stay for the next inmate. And more importantly, that the next time we're called-to-action, we won’t demand justice but will instead ask for mercy. Though I wanted Governor Ivey’s eyes and ears to be anointed to see Nate's innocence, they were not. But that's between her and the Lord. Maybe our little bit of faith worked for his temporary stay. At least, that’s what I’d like to think. But one thing’s for certain; Nathaniel Woods didn't die in vain. His life and death helped me to see justice and mercy differently. I’m going to take what God gave me through his life to pray for the lives of other wrongfully convicted inmates. Won’t you join me?

Pray this with me: Heavenly Father, we ask that You’d cover, comfort, and compensate Nate’s family. And Lord we also ask and realize that it’s not too late for the Governor and the courts to see the truth, even if it is post-humorously. People didn’t believe Jesus was Your Son until after His death, so we thank You that it is possible for people to learn the truth about Nate. Though we would have preferred for him to be with us, we are grateful that he is with You. In Jesus’ name.

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