I sat parked with a clear view of the entrance to the police station. My supervisor car backed into a shaded parking stall, my sergeants brow furrowed, I went over in my head what I was going to say to the new officer I was about to chastise. The longer I sat there, the more quickly my anger began to dissipate. If you are a parent you know what I’m talking about. Your kid messes up and you are determined to give them a strong dressing down and teach them a lesson but pretty quickly your heart softens and you start thinking, “Maybe the fear of disappointing me is enough punishment itself?” Or is that just a mom thing?
My attention quickly snapped to a large, muscle bound, tattoo laden man approaching people entering the station. He was handing people fliers and no one was out of his reach. Was he an officer from another agency? Was he here to make a police report? I cringed because, clearly, he saw me. I tried to look busy so he wouldn’t ask me any questions. I quickly got out of my car as he approached me. Officer safety first, right?
I sized him up and quickly determined he could outmatch me in physical prowess. I was on my guard. He was within three feet of me when I saw the tears in this hard looking man’s eyes and immediately felt my mom heart soften.
“Officer are you going out on patrol?” I skeptically nodded that I was.
“I know your busy but my son ran away from his detention facility in Riverside 10 days ago and I’ve tracked him here. If you run across him would you please call me?” He handed me a flier and I looked at the son’s photo. I promised the father I would keep an eye out and watched him walk away with determined, albeit slow steps. I stuffed the flier in my sunscreen and went about the rest of my shift without giving the incident much additional thought.
Several hours later my cell phone rang as I was barreling code three to the scene of a shooting which had just occured.
“Officer, my son is in (this particular area of town). He’s in a house with gang members. I’ve heard that even the cops won’t go there alone because it’s so rough. What should I do?”
“Sir, I’ll swing by the area when I get a free moment but right now I’m on my way to a shooting.” I hastily disconnected even as I caught his last words wishing for my safety as I drove like my hair was on fire.
I never made it to that particular neighborhood to look for that mans son. I stayed busy all shift and honestly I didn’t give this mans plight much more thought.
While driving home from work, I couldn’t get this boy out of my mind even though I had effectively forgotten about him for the majority of my shift. As I drove I prayed for that boys safety. In the middle of that prayer my phone rang once again.
“Officer! I tracked him down to San Francisco but I just missed him! He is on the last BART train back to Richmond and I’m stuck in traffic. I’ll never get there in time. Can you help?”
I told him I would call someone who was still on duty, relay the information and pray they caught him in time. I called the watch commander and relayed the info as I had promised but it didn’t stop my mind from racing with thoughts about this boy and his father for the rest of my commute.
The next afternoon, while I was enjoying a nice lunch out with a friend, I once again received a phone call from this amazing dad.
“Officer I wanted to tell you ‘thank you’ for all you did for me last night! I know you did what you could. I found my son and he is in the car next to me. We’re headed home.” His voice broke and I could hear the tears of love in his voice.
“I didn’t do anything really but I am so happy to hear this! Hug him tight”, I responded.
“Oh that’s the first thing I did!”, this father responded.
He was so happy to have his son back safe even though he was taking him back to his detention facility. This father tracked his son for TEN DAYS from one end of California to another, from one crappy gang ridden house to another, from one police department to another.
This little vignette still brings tears to my eyes. You see, friends, a father’s love is like no other. God is our heavenly father. And doesn’t He track us down, chase us down, even into the areas where angels fear to tread just to be able to wrap us in His arms and bring us back to his love and even discipline?
We might see God as a big, burly, maybe even strong handed, father but no matter what we have done, or how far we run, or where He has to go to claim us He will do it! I witnessed a father bringing his son back with love but also back to a place where discipline was necessary to help him be the man he was created to be.
God also loves us unconditionally and he will rescue us but maybe he won’t bring us to a place we immediately see as “happy” but rather to place where discipline is necessary for our own good. And if we, as Christians, are to emulate our heavenly father then shouldn’t we also pursue others in order that we might wrap them in love and speak truth, which also is discipline, into their lives?
As police officers we chase “bad guys.” In fact, the “badder” they are and the longer they run the harder we chase them. Don’t think God is any different. As a Christian, if what we see is “baddest of them all” we better know that those who we deem “bad” are still Gods children and he never gives up on them. Catching up to them, He loves them in the manner of the Father.
Let’s strive to emulate Jesus by loving others and never ceasing to celebrate when Gods work is accomplished in the lives of those we may not understand.