Do You Really Want Better?
When I was a rookie, I remember the constant agitation of dissatisfaction with the administration. We needed newer fleet, the SWAT tryouts weren’t held soon enough, the five-point Sheriff’s star would look better with six points . . . You get the point. I was looking through the shortsighted lens of a novice.
I matured as I promoted through the ranks of a large, nationally accredited agency, but there was a small cloud of discontent that continued to hang over my career. As a result, I decided to make a few adjustments.
The first was realizing that no agency would ever be perfect according to my definition of perfection. The second was that I did have the power to control certain aspects of my career. Changing my attitude was the first and most important one. The last realization was that if I wasn’t happy, I could hit the road.
I carried many of those memories from the early, frustrating years with me into my chief of police assignment. I was determined to make the agency a utopia for real cops wanting to do real cop work. It was going to be a professional revolution where everyone was a winner.
To be honest, we made great strides in improving, not only the working conditions, but also the overall safety of the city. Internal politics were eliminated, cliques and bullies were busted up, and cops only riding the pine till pension were pushed back into the game or out into the bleachers.
Ultimately, the changes I forged as chief were only as lasting as my tenure, and with my retirement, so went the revolution. The agency’s posture of blaming the mayor, the council, the public, and everyone but themselves was where they were most comfortably situated.
Like that rookie with the hideous, standard-issue blue Stetson, I wanted to create positive change, and I did everything within my influence to affect it.
But here’s the question: do you really want to affect change, or have you grown accustomed to a posture of status quo and blaming others for stealing your growth opportunities?
If you do want change, either personally or for your career, the answer is found in John 5 during an exchange at the Bethesda Pool between Jesus and a crippled man. We’ll call him Ralph for this example and spare calling him the crippled guy Jesus is talking with.
I love seeing the humanity in Jesus. Especially when He gets kinda snarky to make a point. This brings us back to the Bethesda Pool. The baths were a place where many people with physical infirmities gathered.
On a regular schedule, an angel stirred the waters, and whoever first touched the pool was healed of their affliction. As you can imagine, there were plenty of folks in need. Ralph was one among them.
Jesus saw Ralph and was aware of his disability. Actually, Ralph had the lingering disorder for thirty-eight years. For many of those years, Ralph would make his way to the pools, drag himself to the water’s edge, and wait. In every one of his trips, Ralph failed to touch the water first. It didn’t require a swan dive or a cannonball into the stirred waters. Only a touch to be healed.
While Jesus was full of compassion, He also saw situations for what they were. He simply asked Ralph, “Do you want to become well?”
Herein lies what we’re talking about. Do you want better in your life and/or career? Have you scratched, clawed, trained, and tested your way through the ranks, only to lay dormant at the threshold of realizing your best?
I bet we can rattle off a list of those officers who’d rather complain about how they’ve been short-changed, skipped over, or robbed of the job they deserved. In reality, they had no more intention of moving forward than Ralph did. They were present physically, but weren’t willing to lift a finger, even if it meant saving themselves.
Ralph’s response was typical of so many of us when confronted with reality. Despite the fact that he arrived at the pool on his own each day, it was someone else’s fault for not getting him into the waters. His competition wasn’t exactly a team of Olympians. He got beat every day for thirty-eight years? Talk about a losing streak.
It’s easy to look at another person’s lot in life and see the missed opportunities and broken spirit. Ralph had resigned himself to a daily diet of defeat. I’d be willing to bet if we watched long enough, we’d discover Ralph probably stopped reaching for the water. He might’ve even started to rest beneath the shade of the pavilion. He’d become a spectator.
We also do this when our biggest opponent isn’t others, but ourselves. I can’t pass the lieutenant’s exam, I’m not in shape for SWAT, they’ll pick the other guy because they’re friends. … Sound familiar?
Jesus could’ve bent over and helped Ralph up off the ground, but as simple as He exposed Ralph’s failed faith, He also restored it with a simple command— “Get up.”
A New Perspective
This was what turned my career around. Once I refused to lay in waiting for “my time” or blame others for my lack of happiness, I discovered it was always right at my fingertips.
Jesus uses these examples, not to shame people, but to show the human habits and conditions we allow to keep ourselves down. Learn from this by assessing your situation, sizing up your competition, and sharpening your sense of timing so you can anticipate when to move. And regardless of how long it’s been—Get Up.
There was a certain man there who had suffered with a deep-seated and lingering disorder for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus noticed him lying there, knowing that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, Do you want to become well?
The invalid answered, Sir, I have nobody when the water is moving to put me into the pool; but while I am trying to come myself, somebody else steps down ahead of me.
Jesus said to him, Get up! Pick up your bed and walk!
– John 5:5-8