Dealing With Uncertainty In Law Enforcement
As people of faith, we often wonder what we can do for others, especially for those in need. Ultimately, we seek help when things are out of our control and we can’t fix it. Is it a sign of powerlessness when we say, “We must pray for one another”? Spiritual leaders say that to do so is to acknowledge that we belong to each other. Thus, it is through prayer that we can, and do, help.
In the last several months, I’ve watched our social networking and Internet outlets burst with mentions of prayer. I’m interested in the fuss. Granted, we’ve recently come out of the Easter holiday, National Police Week, and the supposed apocalypse, however, viral statements of “prayers for” or “please pray for” are dominate phrases in a relatively outward, social network made up of family and friends but, moreover, acquaintances and work colleagues.
Are we banding together in response to our line of duty deaths and a war on cops? Perhaps we are weary and in need of hope or having difficulty coping with the burdens of a profession that offers little guidance. Is the pronouncement of prayer just lip service? Does it have meaning or is it the perception of praying that makes it authentic? Does everyone else share in this same spiritual cry for help?
This social networking phenomenon has intrigued me because people are more likely to express their feelings over an email, text, tweet or status update so as not to be fearful of a confrontation or judgment associated with a personal encounter. So why be afraid? While I think there’s a correlation between our prayers and the rising number of deaths and assaults on our law enforcement officers today, I also think that we are at a tipping point in what has been considered secular humanism (a false teaching that all things are “relative” and that there are no absolutes).
Are we considered to be intolerant, out of touch, and narrow-minded unless we embrace all lifestyles and faith? These were questions posed to me by a police chaplain. It forced me to contemplate my own vulnerability while searching for something higher to intercede in making order out of chaos—chaos that we all share. So if we are to “pray,” what are we to pray about? To whom must we pray for?
Let me preface this article by noting that, personally, I’m a work in progress. That is, I’m not in the final term of my “being.” That said, I have a lot of work to do. I often feel left to my own design—in a constant state of desperate stress—looking to find strength and grace on my own. In an existential way, I have always looked for security and comfort in a life of chaos and uncertainty. Although religious, I never really considered myself a praying man, but then I was called to law enforcement—a spiritual vocation—and a lot changed.
After initial schooling and training in military science and kinesiology, I remember waking up one day and declaring, “I’m going to be a cop!” I was 19. I switched gears. I changed majors. I took an oath. Like a hermit crab, I left one shell for another—except this one seemed to fit better. It was larger, more durable, and gave me shelter to grow. It was during this “growth” that I smacked head on with chaos and uncertainty. It was far greater than I had ever experienced or imagined. Every cop knows this chaos. It’s often ugly and wrought with frustration and anxiety. I didn’t always understand it or how to function and thrive in it. I was often confused and seemingly without a beacon or light to show me the way.
Let me share with you a personal story to put this into perspective. If you’ve ever been to college, you’ve had an academic advisor and often that advisor is a professor too. They give you advice, counsel you on your academic welfare, and teach you to look outside of the box—to use critical thinking to challenge the status quo—and to make order out of chaos (there’s that chaos word again). Easy enough, right? I was a full-time criminal justice student while I worked full-time as a deputy sheriff. Not so weird. At the same time, I came to realize that my advisor/professor had an alcohol problem.