Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Behind The Veil

All rise to watch her rhythmic entrance, listen to an accompanying melody and be seated again in anticipation.  Cynics, romantics and the indifferent stifle coughs and sniffles to hear the couple.  One is veiled, the other is queued to remove the veil: to salute the bride.  

An age old practice that never gets old, lifting the veil signals a beginning and an ending.  A shared life begins at the same moment a bachelor and bachelorette disappear.  Hope is an involuntary reflex, touching even the hardest hearts.  The initiated wish them well while holding their breath.  Explaining the strange brew of joy and pain to newlyweds is a killjoy.  

Yet truth-telling lifts pretense's veil: a wedding is a day but a marriage is daily. After ballrooms are cleaned, tables removed and chairs folded, expectations are leveled against the couple.  Dreamy courtships can get lost in the haze of in-laws, sex, money, religion and children.  Some couples soar but others struggle; some struggles lead to 911 calls.

Officers are summoned behind veils of vinyl siding, manicured lawns and Christmas lights.  Curb appealing facades hide difficulties within homes, but police lift veils for a living.  They have to look into the stunned eyes that ask, "What happened to my storybook ending?"  Sometimes the eyes cops look into are battered and swollen, tearful and wide or squinting and blurry.  If eyes are windows to the soul, looking into eyes helps officers understand the soul.  

Empathy is the ability to feel with another. An officer may see versions of himself or herself on a call: anxious children, warring spouses, concerned siblings, weary parents, jaded friends.  To complete a ten hour shift, empathy has to get in line behind stoicism, report writing and waiting for backup.  To do the job, a veil of sorts is donned.

Behind a law enforcement veil is a human being expected to cut a suicidal rope from a ceiling and smilingly give stickers to children; to retrieve body parts at an accident scene and mediate between bickering neighbors; to search for a missing pet and apprehend alleged murders.  Each encounter runs the risk of citizen complaint.  Body cameras affect voice and demeanor because footage is reviewed by command.  

Imagine being a vlogger who only gets one take.  When a body camera is recording, there are no retakes.  The chasm between excellence and error is recorded for supervisors and reporters to pick over, at will.  A video may be critiqued by multiple supervisors.  How does a patrolman or patrolwoman explain a decline in performance after being triggered by dog fights or trafficked children?  Odors are powerful triggers, unavailable to armchair quarterbacks reviewing footage.  Rather than protest the cool logic of video analysis, an officer may choke back frustration before crooning something like, "Thank you.  Feedback is the breakfast of champions."

Getting an officer talking about veils is a chaplain's work.  When riding-along through domestic violence calls, burglaries, jaywalking violations and traffic accidents, prayer is key.  Only the Holy Spirit knows if an officer's veil will be lifted.  
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:16-18)
Turning to the Lord is the strategy of the chaplaincy.  In prayer, we have to remove our own veils and confess our shortcomings to the Lord before entering a law enforcement professional's life.  The only way to get a Glock-toting, Tahoe-whipping constable to lift a veil is to wait for the Lord.  When chaplains turn to the Lord, our own veils are removed, freeing us to listen to officers.  

Being heard is good medicine.  When one officer tells another about the Holy Spirit's work, Christ's work through the chaplaincy passes from one degree of glory to another.  Prayer and financial support provide coffee, sandwiches, ice water, cheeseburgers, donuts, cookies, hand warmers, apples, clementines and candy. 

Eating treats is easier when a veil is lifted.  

The food and gifts are mere strategies to get veils lifting and mouths moving.  Relaxed exchanges and slow-growing trust facilitate deeper conversations about regrets or trouble at home.  Chaplains can provide immediate counseling, suggest mental health referrals and walk alongside officers with resources.  Following up via text messages, rides along or conversations in the hallway can strengthen the relationship.  Intercessory prayer and a newly established Bible study allow chaplains to equip officers as they walk by faith.

Together we are trusting Jesus to change lives.

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