How does a cop deal with a conveyor belt of sin night after night and not expect to get desensitized to it all? Sin drenched calls seem to come in pairs or triplets. Recently I had the trifecta of three calls that spotlighted the sinfulness of sin and it left me with a sorrow over the brokenness that exists all around me.
The first call was a seemingly easy one in which I was to meet with someone that had been kicked out of his house because he couldn’t get along with his parents. Assuming it was an adult living at home with his parents still, I went to a gas station to meet with the person. Instead of an adult I found a 12 year old boy sitting at a table, crying at 10:30PM on a school night. He had walked a half mile from his house to the gas station in subzero temperatures, all the while wearing a sweatshirt and pants (no hat or gloves).
He had been there for 45 minutes and his mom still hadn’t called to report him gone. He told me about his problems with his mom and how he wanted to go live with his Dad. The whole family situation was a disaster. His Dad was out of the picture, his mom parented from a disposition of anger, and he had no desire to obey his mom. He refused to go back to his mom’s house and it took an hour and a half and every ounce of persuasiveness I had to talk him into it.
The second call came right after that. A girl had been told by her friend that her dad had an ongoing and repeated pattern of molesting her and her sister. I gathered all the awful details of the incident and just as I cleared that call I received a message to call our dispatch.
They had received a call from a man (at first we didn’t know where he was but eventually tracked him down to Texas) who said he had a handgun and was going to kill himself. The area code was not a local one and they were unsure of how to handle it. I took the phone number down and called it, just to see if I could talk to this guy.
A drunken man answered my phone call. Over the next 40 minutes I had a conversation with him about his days in the military and his experiences during the worst part of the Iraq war. He went into details about how he watched his friends get blown up or killed and how he watched them die in his arms. He was medicating his depression with alcohol but wasn’t sure how to move past the memories etched into his mind that haunted his dreams while asleep and racked his brain while awake. I couldn’t hold back on what he needed to hear so I shared with him the gospel. He then said he was going to make himself a sandwich and our conversation ended.
Over the course of five hours I had a front row seat to all of this brokenness and was trying to process it. I didn’t really solve anything during the course of those hours. All the situations were still as bad as they were before I received the calls to my computer screen in my car.
That night I listened to a podcast episode by John Piper where he talked about II Corinthians 6:8-10. His comments rang with deep affirmation in my heart:
One of the most amazing things about becoming a Christian is that it awakens you to more sorrow. You come to Christ and you are not naïve. You suddenly wake up to pain. Of course there is pain for unbelievers, but they have no sense of how big it is, how horrible it is, or how long it can endure. To be a Christian is to be awake to cancer and birth defects and profound mental disabilities and divorce and child abuse including abortion and terrorism and earthquakes and tsunamis and racial hostilities and prejudices and white-collar crime and sex trafficking and poverty and hunger and a thousand daily frustrations that make life very hard. Every Christian is increasingly sensitized to these things.
The gospel brings life, right? And living things are awake and alert and touchable by other things. Which means, welcome to Christ and greater sorrow. I have little patience with ministries that sell Jesus with the promise that he will make your life easier. He doesn’t. I promise you. He makes it real. He makes it eternal. And he makes the joy in it indomitable and invincible, but so do your sorrows rise. Come to Jesus and learn how to weep. The world doesn’t know how to weep for lost people. They are one. They don’t even believe in it. They don’t believe in hell. They don’t see to the bottom of anyone’s pain. They see pain. They feel pain. But they don’t see to the bottom of it. Christians are the saddest people in the world — and the happiest.
So the gospel brings life, and in this life comes sensitivity to reality, and reality is really sad in a not-yet-saved world.
This is how I refrain from becoming desensitized to it all. The gospel is life giving and I am meant to feel the weight of sorrow from a world that is broken. Yet I am also to feel hope for a day coming in which Jesus will make all things right in a new heaven and a new earth. The best is yet to come. So I press on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, one more shift at a time.