Thin Lines

Yesterday, Greenville laid to rest one of their Police Officers shot in the line of duty. Thousands have gathered to pay their respects and many more mourn with broken hearts that may never be seen or felt. Tears that have been wiped from cheeks as brave men and women put on their uniforms to step out and serve their communities without hesitation. They know the risks. They know the dangers. Yet, they serve.

We hear about the Thin Blue Line that makes up our police force, that binds officers into a brotherhood of service. Some people fear it, others respect it, and some think it makes them mighty above men. But they are merely men and women like you and me who have stepped up to serve and protect. They are brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, sons and daughters of our cities, of our communities.

And we have seen them grieve. So far this year, 26 officers have died in service to their communities.

But they are not the only ones who shed tears. They are not the only ones who have felt the pain. 14 firefighters and three emergency medical personnel have also died in the line of duty this year.

These are all men and women who serve our communities. Volunteers and professionals alike. We all know the Thin Blue Line, but they are the Red and White Lines that are there when we need them the most. And they were there when others have fallen.

We don’t see the pain that they suffer when they serve one another. They are different stands made out of the same cord, and together they hold back the darkness of the world that would have us consumed by fear.

We never hear about the EMT’s struggle as they refuse to stop fighting for life as they speed off into the dark, a race against death. Do they not suffer from the pain of witnessing such a tragedy?  What about the Firefighter who watches everything that made up a home go up in smoke? Or when they arrive on the scene of a multi-vehicle accident. The trauma they face cannot be seen physically present, but carried on their souls each and every day.

And if these Thin Lines of Blue, Red and White make up the cords that serve and protect our communities, there is another that binds them. A not-so-silent witness that is hidden from the view of the public. A voice on the other end of the line that you never see, but they are out there listening, guiding, directing. What have they not witnessed or experienced as they hold the stands together.

The Thin Gold Line that is the family of Dispatchers. The dedicated call takers who hear every cry for help and ever-present radio operators who keep track of all the moving pieces, directing them into the darkness. They are the voices in the night reminding us that hope is on the way.

Do they not feel the pain of loss when one of their brothers or sisters falls? Do they not question every decision they made, every word spoken, second guessing themselves? They may be hidden behind the mike and headset, but the wounds can still cut. They hear everything. Feel every cry for help. And sometimes they question the best that they could do.

I am part of this family. I am proud to serve behind the scenes, hidden from view, but still supporting the Thin Lines that are there for our community.

You see, it wasn’t just the Thin Blue Line that laid a brother to rest yesterday. It was the entire Emergency Services family that felt the cut of loss. It was the community that makes up Greenville that lost one of its own. A brother. A father. Husband.  Friend. Protector. Servant.


Love in Forgivenes

Have you ever been in the position where you had to choose between forgiveness or getting crushed by the overwhelming force of the world? Have you ever had to choose between the act of forgiveness or allowing your heart to be consumed by the darkness brought on by the pain caused by another’s words, actions, or silence? Have you ever had the opportunity to forgive with your whole heart?

Last night, at the Gathering of the Radius Community, several of Jesus’ last prayers from the week before he died were shared, six from across the Gospels, but one specifically stood out to me.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
– Luke 23:34

It was pointed out that this short prayer was one of the only times that Jesus asks for something that may have not been the will of the Father. And in this moment, when asking for forgiveness, even as he is being put to death, he is pouring out love.

It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would’ve annihilated itself in endless retributions. Without forgiveness, there would be no history. Without that hope, there would be no art, for every work of art is in some way an act of forgiveness. Without that dream, there would be no love, for every act of love is in some way a promise to forgive. We live on because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.
– Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

Forgiveness defines us. Not only as followers of Jesus Christ, but as human beings.

I have had many opportunities to forgive. Sometimes it took me mere moments, but other pains took much longer. I have forgiven those who have accused me. Who have acted out in violence towards me. Who have harmed me. Who have used words to cut deep into the soul. And I have learned to love them even more.

Forgiveness is the ultimate act of love.

When we forgive, we let go of everything that caused that pain and begin to allow ourselves to heal. When we forgive, we release the chains that bind not only us, but those who hurt us, to our pain and our scars. And when we release one another from the pain caused, we grant them freedom.

Stand Your Ground

In the Christian circles, we often talk about this idea of spiritual warfare in an abstract sort of way. Where prayer is used as a weapon and we charge in a barbarian wave shouting battle cries taken from the latest praise and worship album. We think of the kingdom of Satan as a fortress with vast walls and gates, and so often we hear the saying, “storming the gates of hell.” I am guilty of using this language, but I have come to realize that this is a dangerous way of thinking, and it goes against how God is using us to fight as warriors in this battle.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your fellow believers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering.
– 1 Peter 5:8-9

The early Church knew that, while the Kingdom of God is at hand, the Kingdom of Satan still exists here in this world, and will remain until the Son of God returns once again. They did not see the Kingdom of Satan as a fortress to be stormed, but something to be feared. A lion waiting to attack.

I have come to the realization that God does not call us to storm the gates of hell. He calls us to a more dangerous task: to stand firm.

We are not called to attack, but to stand our ground. To make our stance known in this world and in the spiritual realms. To stand in the light and be a beacon of hope and strength for others whose strength is wavering. To support one another. To defend ourselves and those who stand shoulder to shoulder beside us.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
– Ephesians 6:10-13

As believers, God has equipped us to make our stand. To fight a personal battle against the demons that attack us every day and that have worked their way into our scars that life has brought us.

We are called to stand our ground. And after all the battles are done, to stand.

Our battle is not one where physical prowess or weapons have the advantage, but it is battle where peace and love are our greatest weapons, and hope and faith are our armor. It is a battle where angels and demons fight unseen around us, and how we live every moment of our lives is proof of the tide of battle for our souls.

The Beauty of the Past

Over the past several months, I’ve had the chance to step back and reflect on the craziness of life over the past several years. To look back at all the good things that I have done, how much I have grown, and all the bridges I have burned and let fall apart. It’s been an adventure. And the more I reflect on the past, the more I can accept the beauty in it.

I recently read a passage in the book The Mountain Shadow, by Gregory David Roberts that states:

The only beauty that the past has it that it can’t be changed. There was nothing you could’ve done, and there’s nothing you can do now.

For so long I second guessed everything that I had done. I looked back at my fears and failures and the times I froze, and all I could think about was what I would change. I was consumed by trying to change those moments. I rationalized them. I explained them. But all I truly wanted was for it to change.

But as I sat back and breathed for the first time in years, after I was able to relax and reflect on this journey of life, these words echoed with my soul.

Someone once told me that the only way I would survive was to realize that in that moment, we give everything we have and all that we are. The only way to live with ourselves is to know that we did everything we could, gave all of our heart and soul. There is nothing more you could have done, nothing more you can do.

This instant you start doubting that is the moment you tear yourself apart from the inside through your doubts.

Instead of holding it in, we have to let it go. And embrace the beauty of the past. Learn from it. But let it go and keep moving forwards, giving everything you can in every moment.