When you are married to a police officer, each day is a bit like stepping from the edge of something solid and into a fog. You can’t be sure if the drop under your foot will be six inches or sixty feet! Most days are ordinary and safe. But, there is always a chance that in the space of a few hours your life may take a dramatic turn—the one you love may not even come home at all.
When Rick and I married, I knew he dreamed of being a cop. He was already in training. I supported his dream and when they pinned a badge on him, I was proud. Yet I never expected the fears I would have to deal with, or how the constant pressure of dealing with the unknown would challenge my faith. At times God has demonstrated His faithfulness by giving an unexplained peace, but other times I have had to face the dragons head on and that has not been easy.
I remember a night when I was pregnant with our third child and two little boys scrambled under foot. I busied myself folding laundry, and like always, had the police scanner going on in the background. Not that I was really listening to it, but it stayed on most of the time occasionally providing glimpses of Rick’s day. There was a call for a routine traffic stop then a few minutes later the frantic voice of an injured officer calling for backup. I kept on folding laundry and offered a quick, silent prayer for the situation.
It wasn’t until the next morning when my husband came home with a cast on his arm that I realized the wounded officer was the one who lives at our house! I don’t know why I did not recognize his voice on the radio. My only guess is the Lord spared me the trauma. I was able to tend to my children, peacefully finish out the day, and go to sleep with my not-yet-ready-to-be-born baby tucked safely inside. I was shielded from this particular very real and very fearful situation, however, that has not always been the case.
Being the wife of a law enforcement officer, I’ve had to endure many hardships and face many unexpected fears. For years the continual stress on our marriage almost consumed us.
I can recall countless evenings when my husband worked the graveyard shift and I was left pacing the floor with a sick child. Or, the holidays—especially Christmas—when it seemed that everyone and their second brother was having a festive time, while our family was separated due to the job. Then there were days when I had to hang sheets or bits of available clothing over the windows in hopes of blocking out sunlight, so Rick could catch a bit of sleep before having to do it all over again.
Yet, those inconveniences are not the worst part. The ever-present fear and seeing how hard it is for an officer to personally face the dark side of life is more painful than any missed celebration.
When you are married to an officer, fear becomes a constant companion, whether you want to admit it or not. You can’t help asking yourself, “What if I get that knock on my door tonight?” I know all too well what it’s like to hear the garage door go up and feel as though you can breathe again. You sigh, “He’s home!” But you can’t really rest because you know he will go back out there tomorrow.
The worst part of all is watching the eyes of officers who have become the walking wounded. The public forgets that police officers, like the rest of us, have feelings and emotion. Many struggle for the rest of their lives after having to take a life, or witnessing the senseless death of a child—perhaps one about the age of their own. These nightmares haunt them and leave them cold and numb. Some can’t talk about it or won’t, and the secrets stay bottled up inside until at last it destroys them or those they love.
I guess that is why I am so thankful that God has given Rick and me a ministry to other police officers and their families. We know what it is like. We have been there. And, best of all, we have found the healing God provides. We came to the breaking point on more than one occasion, but we also know that when we both got right with our Lord, we were able to put things into the right perspective. After twenty-three years we are still together and life is good.
The Lord has blessed us these many years, and now as we serve other officers, there is a particular kind of joy. We’ve seen marriages saved, lives given to Christ, and faith renewed. I am very proud of my officer-husband. He is brave and strong and I admire him greatly. I’ve watched him race off to help a friend in need or even a total stranger, and I still remember the day my man was commissioned.
As I typed that last line and the memories rolled, I was thinking of all the next generation of officers’ wives – many I am honored to call friends. Tonight, a number of them will be waiting patiently until they hear that key in the door. My heart is full and I find myself praying, “God help them on this journey and bring their husbands home safely tonight.”
Then, something stirs inside me and I know that no matter what the future holds, God is faithful and nothing out there on the streets is stronger than the One who holds their hands.
Written by Kristi Neace