Writer Maya Kroth penned an article entitled: “I Was Scared Straight by Judge Judy’s Bailiff”. In it Ms. Kroth describes the moment in her life when the famous TV Bailiff, otherwise known as Petri Byrd, caused her to turn her life around. He wasn’t Judge Judy’s bailiff at the time; he was at her school, the “narc”, as he was known by the students. She describes him as being “tasked with keeping the kids who were on the margins of our nationally ranked school from falling off the page completely”. For Ms. Kroth, Mr. Byrd was, quite literally, a life-saver; through simple action he gave her the incentive to leave her self-destructive path and take one that was safer and healthier. He had indeed kept her from “falling off the page completely”.
Later in life, Ms. Kroth spotted Mr. Byrd on TV as Judge Judy’s bailiff, so she reached out to him so she could thank him personally. Her high-school saviour agreed to meet, so she flew to LA for the face to face encounter. In the course of their conversation he told her “Black or white, rich or poor, whatever the circumstances people find themselves in, everybody wants to feel loved, to feel secure, to feel valued, to feel like it’s a team.” While it wasn’t directly the motive behind his success in help Ms. Kroth and other stay on the page, it’s clearly a fundamental part of his success. “Everybody wants to be loved.”
Reading his words, a thought popped into my mind: Ms. Kroth hadn’t been so much scared straight as she was loved straight. The life-changing encounter with the “narc” wasn’t one filled with fear and terror; it was a simple, knowing glance from him that caused her to realize that she had been seen for who she was. In that simple act, she knew that to him, she was more than a student on the wrong track; she mattered. She knew she was lovable and loved.
When God saw how far we had fallen, when we had pretty much hit rock-bottom, God intervened, but not by scaring us straight. God stepped in through Jesus, loving us straight through His death and resurrection. God didn’t send Jesus to the cross. We did that; but God turned our stupidity around, turning our lowest moment into Jesus’ greatest victory. No doubt, Jesus was afraid, but that personal fear was over-ridden by His love, and it’s that love that saved us.
Sure, sometimes we’re scared half to death when we make an awful mistake or poor choice, but that’s just a warning sign that we need to smarten up and straighten out. Fear can only go so far; it might cause us to change to a safer course, but it won’t necessarily keep us there. What keeps us on the straight and narrow is the love and support of those around us who care enough to help us get back up on our feet. We need someone who sees us for who we are and is able to remind us of our worth. We don’t need to be scared straight so much as to be loved straight. It doesn’t take someone tasked with the job, the “narc” hired to do that one thing. All it takes is the eyes to see someone for who they are and the heart to love them away from their own self-destruction.