After the police academy, constables climb the stairs two by two. Some bound, others hop, fueled by twenty-something fast twitch muscles. Shift work can curb enthusiasm; as the years pass they begin taking the stairs one at a time.
One at a time they flirt and date; marry and honeymoon; sire or carry; parent and worry. As years stack, the stairs seem to get steeper. Still they climb.
Nursing injuries and needing therapy, they climb to keep jobs that provide health care. While reading headlines of departmental failures in other time zones, they climb. Whether their mayoral candidate won, or lost, they tuck into command structure. After making mistakes, being sued or finalizing divorces they return to apply lessons learned.
Often cops come alone. Leaving spouse and offspring, pet and parent, sworn officers negotiate the steps. They go up in civilian clothes and come down in uniform. Ten hours later they go up in uniform and come down in shorts and flip flops...presto, chango, rearrango.
They leave the way they came: alone. Whether driving home, or meeting friends, their thoughts, demons and dreams assail. They commute like they work: alone behind the wheel. One by one, scenarios and body camera clips play in their minds.
Their body cameras, like their staircase, are hidden behind locked doors. Tinted glass and security swipes mean few will see what is herein described. Few will understand their anguish and triumphs; their fears and faith-filled moments.
There is One who understands.
He understands what it means to walk alone; to hear a call and respond in earnest. He understands what it means to be tempted and tried, to be set up and lied upon, to be the hero one day and the scapegoat the next.
For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Hebrews 2:17 NIV
Jesus understands the ones climbing steps at Old Harry Hill.
In the 1970's, Harry Hill High School School was erected and the first Lansing Police Chaplain began serving. Over a half century, both the stairs and the chaplains have changed, but their purposes remain the same.
Stairs get people where they need to go, but they're great places to meet people where they are.
Chaplains camp at the bottom of the stairs with enough food and gifts for 209 officers. Most partake but some stop to talk. Sometimes chit chat results, but occasionally conversations plumb hopes and dreams. When a cop trusts by opening a hurt locker, prayer is required.
Before chaplains stand at the bottom of the Lansing Police Department staircase, prayer partners intercede for the work. They assure us they're praying, send encouraging cards, email regularly and pick up the phone when we call. Together we lift the Lansing community to Jesus, our merciful and faithful high priest.
He sees what we cannot and equips us for work beyond our capacity. Behind brick walls and under bright lights, a staircase winds. As they age, officers change their orientation to the steps.
They start off running but time slows them to a walk. Injuries bring them to reach for the handrails. Recoveries bring them back to the stairs with gratitude. At the bottom of the stairs, chaplains are equipped to serve and listen.
Sometimes we're ignored or treated as gophers. Occasionally, an officer will open up and share what's bothering. Listening and asking open ended questions can create safe space for reflection. Confidentiality allows people to talk about what they never talk about. If we get to emotional or spiritual content, chaplains offer prayer and are rarely refused.
As we pray, we know prayer partners are praying too. Follow-up, referrals or pastoral care are arranged depending on the circumstance, but breakthroughs often begin at the staircase.
We are gratefully equipped to do the work of ministry. Through prayer support and generosity, the Holy Spirit is using a Christ-centered ministry for the Father's glory.