Learning You Don’t Know What Is Behind the Uniform

What can you expect when a law enforcement officer says, “I need to speak with you?”

I had no idea what was coming.

He was sitting at a table by himself.  I was passing by on my way to do my job.  It was t-minus 5 minutes before I had to be on stage in front of an expectant crowd.

We hadn’t spoken before.  It was quite random.  Enough to raise my blood pressure.  Similar to a moment when the teacher says, “Meet me in the hall, we need to talk.”

I’m thinking, “Uh, ok, what did I do wrong?”

As I take a breadth to reply, he says, “I know you’re busy.  We can talk when you done.”

I trust his word.  There is not enough time to discuss it right now.  I walk away with a looming thought of doom hanging in the back of my mind.

No big deal.  A uniformed law enforcement officer requesting your presence is an everyday occurrence.  Just not in my life.

I could not have predicted tears would be flowing from his eyes as I approached.

Now I’m thinking, “Is this okay?  Should he be crying while wearing a badge?  Will I be arrested and accused of causing an emotional reaction in an uniformed officer?

I simply listen.  What other choice do I have?  He has a taser, billy club, and gun on his hip.

With a broken voice, he tells his story. 

He says, “I was listening to you preach a few weeks ago.  It was the night you started the series called “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle.”  Ever since, I’ve heard every message.  I have a miracle story I need to share with you.  I’ve never told anyone before.”

He tells me.  “I was an officer in a small, rural town.  Due to certain circumstances, I ended up homeless.  I lived out of my car for 3 months.  Every time I went to my trunk to gather paper work for a routine stop, I stared at all of my possessions lying there as well.

Fighting back tears, he continues, “I couldn’t take it any more.  One day I pulled off the road into an empty parking lot.  The building is abandoned.  No one would be around.  I pulled out my gun, loaded it, and stuck to my head.  I didn’t pull the trigger.”

“At the end of my rope, I stepped out of the car and fell to my knees.  I wasn’t very religious at the time.  I did’t know what else to do but pray.  I asked God to save me now.”

He climbed back into the car.  Overcome with emotion, he wept in the front seat of his cruiser.

He heard a knock on his window.  He opened his eyes to see a cross hanging from a stranger’s neck. He opened the door.

The man says, “I noticed you were crying.  Is everything ok?  Is there anything I can do to help?”

A conversation ensues, leading the strange man to say, “I am from California.  I was a pastor for several years out there.  One day, I felt God leading me to another path.  God compelled me to buy a RV and drive all over the nation in order to save others.”

That’s exactly what he did.  As the law enforcement recalled to me, “He saved my life.  It was the miracle that kept me alive.”  

There is something he said that struck me.

He said, “I would arrest people who would complain about their circumstances.  They had no idea my situation was in many ways worse”

They had no idea what was behind his uniform.  His story.  His brokenness. His humanity.

Honestly, neither did I.  Now, I feel blessed to know.

This is helping me to realize the significance of this reality for everyone I meet.  In one way or another, we all wear a “uniform.”  I pray for the courage to seek what is behind it. Truly.  No assumptions or early judgments.  Just an openness to listen for God’s story written into their life. 

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