When I went through the police academy all those years ago, I was given a top ten list – a list of ten mistakes officers have made that cost them their lives. Many officers taped the list to their metal clipboards as a reminder to not become complacent. It is a stark reminder of what the officer needs to prepare and watch out for on the street.
After witnessing countless personal tragedies off the street among law enforcement colleagues, friends, and acquaintances, it becomes quite evident to me that there are spiritual survival skills needed for the peace officer which are just as important as the physical ones.
Now, I was not given the list in the academy as an exercise in “Monday-Morning-Quarterbacking” of those who had come before me. Instead it was wisdom passed on so that I might survive.
Similarly, we are not offering this insight to “Monday-Morning-Quarterback” your spiritual life. Instead it is offered in the same spirit as I spoke about above; it is offered as, perhaps, some wisdom to help keep your soul in good shape in the midst of the foolishness and mayhem you deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans writes: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
So, here, I’d like to hone in on #10 in the list: Dirty, Inoperative, or Unused Weapons or Equipment - Are your weapons clean? Will they fire? Do you carry and employ the proper weapon, ammunition and equipment? Do you wear your body armor? Do you keep your knowledge and skills honed?
I confess that while I enjoyed heading down to the firing range, cleaning my duty-weapon was not a favorite activity for me. But, it was driven hard for us that neglecting our weapons could prove fatal. I have found, from my own experience, and through observation of colleagues, friends, and acquaintances, as I mentioned above, that neglecting our security, our identity, and our meaning for our lives – for the core of who we are can also prove to be grave.
What follows is a list to think on regarding the basic need for keeping your handgun clean and your heart whole.
I. Manufacturer’s manuals are critical. While not all of them are detailed enough, but most are clear and some comprehensive, containing schematics, model specific maintenance guidelines and information on the weapon’s mechanical operation. Being a gunsmith isn’t required, but a working knowledge of your weapon is.
Spiritual Application: “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) Here, the term refers to the sharp, short sword used in close combat. Utilizing the user’s manual for your heart prepares you for the spiritual close combat that can bruise the soul in the varied human misadventure and mayhem you regularly deal with.
II. As the saying goes: “Cleaning postponed is often cleaning forgotten.” Often, I disliked the cleaning of my weapon after our in-service training and qualification because we finished with night fire; and I was anxious to get home. Nevertheless, the cleaning was done because I knew I would forget if I didn’t do it then; and I knew that the time to clean my weapon was NOW!
Spiritual Application: “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) Here, St. Paul, who started his career in serving warrants (cf. Acts 9:1-2), is imparting to us the importance and seriousness of God’s offer of Grace; that His favor is being offered now to you and me and that we should not take this lightly. Our very identity, security, and meaning are at stake.