(The following is my Chaplain’s Message from the Winter 2013 Issue of the Minnesota Police Chief Magazine)
“It’s getting dark.” This isn’t a metaphor created by your chaplain as he looks for a starting point for his chaplain’s message. It really is getting dark out there. Especially since daylight savings time ended and I often find myself eating dinner in the dark. This is the time of year when the amount of daylight we receive is shortened and the amount of daily darkness we face increases. And with that increase in darkness, it’s important to think about how it impacts our lives. Without giving the darkness much thought, our response to these days with fewer hours of daylight is pretty automatic. We simply turn on our lights. Why? So that we can see. Simple.
It’s hard for me to believe, but I have been retired from sworn service as a police officer for seven years now. For those same seven years, I have been serving several organizations, including the MCPA, as a full time public safety chaplain. During that time, I have spent hundreds of hours with individuals and organizations as they face the daily challenges of our professions. And in our time together, a time that I spend focusing in the spiritual health and fitness of these individuals and organizations, I have found a constant theme among those who are experiencing challenges in their lives. Darkness. (Okay, so I guess we are heading for a metaphor here…) And what enhances that darkness is the feeling of loneliness.
I have spent the last several months, working with a very qualified friend who has volunteered his time, developing a strategic plan for Public Safety Ministries. For those who don’t know, Public Safety Ministries is the organization that supports my chaplaincy work. The strategic plan, complete with mission, vision, principles, strategies, tactics, goals and objectives, will be completed for implementation in January 2014. But amidst all of the organizational and strategic planning jargon and processing, the description of what I do can be reduced to one simple statement: “I share light with those who are alone in the dark.”
My job isn’t to tell people where to find their light source, nor is it to give them my light source. My job is to simply walk with those who are alone in the dark, sharing the light I carry, so that they can find their own light. It’s much like having a neighbor who is alone at home, in a storm, in the dark, whose power goes out and they loose their light. The neighbor probably has a flashlight (but the batteries are dead and they can’t find the spares), or a lantern (but they can’t find it in the dark mess in the basement), or even a cell phone with a flashlight app (that they left in the car that the kid took to work). They may even have a portable generator (but can’t find the fuel, nor the funnel, nor the extension cord…). The light we all need to survive is there, our personal light is there, but sometimes we just can’t find it. And we need our neighbor to help us find it.
So as these days of darkness and frequent storms come upon us, do an inventory of your light sources. We can’t control the presence of darkness and storms, physically or metaphorically, but we can control the light we store, and the light we share. Take some time this holiday season to get together with family, friends and neighbors to share some time and to share some light. And take the time to experience the joy in hearing someone (or even yourself) say “Ah… and there’s the light!”
Take Care, Pastor Dan.