A cooler of iced water weighs 82 lbs.
Thirteen steps are in a flight.
Carrying a cooler up two flights increases respiration and heart rate. Once upstairs, a 200 yard walk to the room of distribution increases strain. Myriad motivations drive water carrying: heat, kindness, thirst, health. Remembering why helps.
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” ~ Matthew 10:42
Chaplains carry water to connect with people. Chilled refreshments are an attention-getter, ripening ears for the reading of scripture. Shopping, arranging and leaving enough time to chill the bottles takes 30-60 minutes. Reading the Bible and distributing bottles takes less than 5 minutes.
I read in the full confidence that the Word will not return void. Yet when no one says, "I would like to hear more sometime," or "That scripture brought me to think about...", wonder creeps.
What is the proof that any of the ministry is producing fruit? Does the department require seminary training and five year of experience to read the Bible aloud in a disinterested room? Were student loans required to lift dead weight, stand in a doorway and distribute treats? Is the Word working if the shifts file out sixty seconds after reading? Am I wasting my time if no one seems to be taking the time to engage?
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:19-26)
Another empty room and empty cooler preceded a wondering walk to the parking lot. Lost in my thoughts, an officer surprised me.
"Hey Chaplain. What's the word for the day?"
Galatians 5 was rehearsed, before I asked, "Which of the fruit of the Spirit gets your attention?"
An officer, with twenty-plus year of experience, furrowed the brow to consider the question.
"Three jump out to me Chappy: patience, kindness, self control.
"I need patience because I hear the same thing everyday: he said / she said arguments. Truth is somewhere between the two but knowing where to find the truth is difficult. Some of what each says is true but officers are lied to on a regular basis. Patterns of brokenness are tied to people calling us for help. When we arrive, citizens are disinterested in accepting our suggestions. I need patience to give my best to people not giving their all.
"I need self-control to beat back first impressions and knee jerk responses. I have to remember that what I hear on the radio or see when first entering a situation is not all there is. Delaying conclusions is tough because so much of our work deals with split second decisions. Self control is also needed to keep from losing heart. I can't always say what I think; holding my tongue in the face of lunacy is tough.
"Kindness can be lost in the work. I'm partial to children and the elderly because they're vulnerable. For everyone in the middle, kindness and patience are a little harder to come by. Choices result in police calls. Seeing the same people cycle through crime, conviction, prison and crime again makes kindness to the cycling person hard.
"Sounds like I need some of those fruits of the Spirit."
We spoke more about how to obtain fruits of the Spirit: establishing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit and steadily rereading passages like Galatians 5. For almost an hour we spoke of theological realities, freely in the halls of the LPD Operations Center.
One exchange about the Lord Jesus Christ made all of the frustrations worthwhile. I did not initiate, nor exercise any control over, the conversation. The Holy Spirit gave me just enough to beat back the wonder, doubt and discouragement.
A cooler still weighs 82 lbs. but one officer's time, attention and reflection lightened my load. May the Holy Spirit continue bolstering Christian outreach to first responders.