Wild Satisfaction

Wild Satisfaction

“And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart…”

Deuteronomy 8:2

The wilderness is a great teacher. Its lessons are rarely pleasant, but they are always effective. God has used wilderness as a teaching tool for all of human history. Adam and Eve were taken out of the garden, and put into the wilderness. The patriarchs all walked through seasons of wilderness. Moses went through 2 seasons of wilderness. David had to flee into the wilderness. Even Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tested…

As a first responder, you may not find yourself surrounded by trees and wildlife, you may be stationed downtown in a metropolis, but you are familiar with wilderness. I worked as a paramedic for 10 years before going into vocational ministry. I know well the long 24-hour shifts away from home, missing important family moments, and being confronted with the worst of humanity day after day after day. This is where burnout lives. This is where our Kingdom witness falters.
But the Lord is sovereign, and the Lord uses seasons of wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:2, God isn’t learning, He is teaching us what is in our hearts. What is most important to us? Where do we look for peace, joy, satisfaction?

If we are looking to anything, or anyone, other than Jesus – We will not have peace, joy, or satisfaction.

Jeff Richardson

Dallas Willard says this: “Human desire is infinite by its nature. You must take your stand against it because you cannot satisfy it. Desire is infinite partly because we were made by God, made for God, made to need God, and made to run on God. We can be satisfied only by the one who is infinite, eternal, and able to supply all our needs; we are only at home in God. When we are distanced from God, the desire for the infinite remains, but it is displaced upon things that will certainly lead to destruction” God uses those seasons of suffering, those long shifts, those terrible calls, those difficult partners to teach us where we still are looking for satisfaction somewhere besides Him.

I felt called to the ministry for 5 years before I was brought on staff at our church. That was 5 long years of knowing where God wanted me, and still working on an ambulance. Years of frustration with ‘frequent flyers’, DUI fatalities, and pediatric codes. It was also 5 years of the Lord teaching me that my identity was as a chosen royal priest: not just a medic. 5 years of learning that my ambulance was a mission field. 5 years of learning how to be content in the wilderness, by learning how to be content in Christ. Even though my job wasn’t what I wanted.

David wrote Psalm 63 from the wilderness. I encourage you to go read it.

David had been anointed (called) as the next king of Israel but had not been crowned yet. Instead of a coronation, he was given exile- he was forced into a season of wilderness by the current king who wanted to kill him. Despite his circumstances, David is able to write, “My soul is satisfied.” His soul was satisfied in the worst of circumstances, in the wilderness: because he was seeking the Lord. He was not seeking the kingship, the kingdom, the riches, the power, the women, the fame. He wanted God more than all of that. And you know what? The Lord was there with David and satisfied his soul.

This season of wilderness is not for nothing. Paul says it is working an eternal weight of glory. It has purpose. Don’t convince yourself you are a victim. Don’t try to rush the Lord’s time. Don’t try to medicate your suffering with other things. Instead: change your desire. Seek the Lord earnestly, completely. You can always have Him, and He will satisfy you like nothing else, no matter your circumstances. Find your identity in Christ alone. You will not find true and lasting satisfaction anywhere else in this world. 

White Stones

White Stones

There are a multitude of reasons people pursue a career as a first responder. Whether to be a Police Officer, Corrections Deputy, Firefighter, or other; for many of us it starts off by answering a call to service. Whether that call comes from a loved one to follow in their footsteps, a member of our community asking us to give back, or just the excitement a career in that field can offer, nonetheless, a call was made, and we answered. And after the months-long hiring process finally reaches its pinnacle and we receive that coveted ‘conditional offer of hire’, one of the first things we’re given is a badge. It’s held up in ceremonial fashion and pinned to our uniform on our chest above our left pocket as if it was always meant to be there. There’s handshaking, and clapping, and pictures being taken, and smiles, and hugs, and it’s an unforgettable experience. Our family is proud and so are we. 

In the Beginning

Then it’s off to the academy where we train and study day and night, night and day for months on end. Bringing our minds and bodies into subjection in order to become the best version of ourselves possible so we may bring the utmost honor and respect to the name on that badge. And with that in mind, they cut the cord and set us free. “Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed”, we pin that badge to our uniforms and set off with honorable intentions and a cutthroat allegiance to the job and to the men and women who wear the same badge we do. The same men and women we will soon call ‘brothers and sisters’. Because you see, not long into our careers we find ourselves spending more time with those ‘brothers and sisters’ than our own family members. More than our own wives, our own husbands, our own sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, moms, and dads. Chasing overtime, in-service training, writing reports, testifying in court, special assignments, special training, critical incidents, promotions, callouts, you name it. But it’s exciting! We’re honing our craft and fine-tuning our skills every step of the way. And it’s the call we answered. And it’s the same call our ‘brother and sisters’ answered. 

That’s the reason we don’t complain to our peers when we get held back on overtime for the third or fourth time that week; because our ‘brothers and sisters’ have worked the same overtime shifts we have. We stay professional, keep our composure and our resolve remains strong. And so, the years go by and we earn stripes on our sleeves. As first responders, we’re constantly putting out fires, both literally and figuratively. And we take pride in our skills and ability to handle situations under immense pressure. In fact, going through a critical incident becomes a badge of honor and a sort of twisted way of validating our own skill set to our peers. Those who haven’t experienced that next-level critical incident in their careers are usually viewed negatively by others. “Their mettle hasn’t been tested yet”, and “their soft,” we say. The more battle-worn we are, the more unspoken respect we seem to get from our peers and the more validation we give ourselves that we’re solid, and thus keep advancing forward. And so, we run into burning buildings, towards the sound of gunfire, or into a disruptive unit. Meticulously evaluating the scene, instinctively assessing threats, and intercepting danger without regard to our own well-being.

A New Name

We continue the grind and work hard to provide for our families and keep our communities safe. We work to bring honor to the name on our uniform. In fact, we work in a culture that freely gives out plenty of names. Some of which we really don’t care for, others that boost our egos maybe too much. We give “nicknames” to our colleagues. The closer we are to those individuals the more personal, however odd, those aliases can be. As George MacDonald put it, “The only names which have significance are those which the popular judgement or prejudice or humour bestows, either for ridicule or honour…” (Unspoken Sermons, p.40). The name we are all called by, notably more so with nicknames (regardless of if we want to answer to it or not), has an intimate relation to who we really are, or better yet, who we are seen to be in the eyes of those who give us that name. 

Those names have real meanings that symbolize our past experiences and who we’re seen to be. Things we did and things we said. They personify something that the people who give us those names wish to draw out of us. Even if only in confidence, they hear the name out loud, but it’s kept a mystery to those outside our inner circle making it even more personal. Whether for ridicule or honor, those are the names that have significance. Those are the names that slowly shape us, like it or not, into something or someone else we didn’t see coming. It’s the name that becomes part of our identity. They create a facade. A guise that, at a certain point, we feel we must uphold and defend at all costs, right or wrong. Sooner or later, however, the constant state of mind that we must maintain to keep ourselves and those around us safe takes hold. There’s no “on and off switch” anymore. It’s just always ON. What’s more, the only name or rather identity that eventually matters isn’t the one on our nameplate, stitched to our uniform, or the name we went by from our childhood. Not even the nickname our partner calls us anymore. It’s the name engraved on our left chest above our shirt pocket… Officer… Deputy… Sergeant… Chief… One way or another, sooner or later, it becomes not just a name but rather our identity. An identity behind the badge. An identity that we often struggle with. One that, if our identity isn’t rooted in the right place before we start our careers, will surely take over indeed. But we’ve worked hard, and we like this job. It’s fun and exciting. Some of us are even drawn to the dangers of the job. So, we keep training and press on.

The Toll it Takes

We’re trained to uphold the law, enforce rules, investigate, respond, and save lives.  We’re trained to do all these things and get very good at them by doing them day in and day out. By constantly extinguishing the little fires we’re also preparing ourselves for when the “big one” hits. But when the “BIG ONE” comes, and it will come, it inevitably leaves an impression behind on our heart and soul that changes us forever. Over the course of a career, we will encounter many, many critical incidents and there is never really much time to recover or cope in a healthy manner. In between the overtimes, the trainings, the special “this and that’s”, and the “oh don’t forget about your family’s”, we rarely take or have the time to reflect, to be still and cope with the critical incidents. We can’t talk to our families because we know they won’t understand. For the same reasons we won’t confide in our colleagues about stress or overtime, we also won’t confide in them when something inside of us is off. 

It’s our pride. And our pride defines us. As Type-A personalities, we’re reluctant to acknowledge something our culture views as a weakness: asking for help in moments of genuine struggle. This stubborn pride becomes a barrier. Our foolish pride gets in the way, and we refuse to ask for help. Even among our closest allies—those we share the most challenging moments with, those with whom we hold the line and run into danger, THOSE WE’D LAY OUR LIVES DOWN FOR—we find it difficult to break through this barrier and seek the support we truly need.

So, we retreat. But not from danger! We retreat from ourselves back behind the badge and assume the identity we’ve been so, so good at upholding. Years continue to pass us by and the overtime, trainings, and specials’ continue and we become someone our peers admire for it. We’re “SOLID” or “HARD”. But the real truth is we’re trapped. We’ve been slapped with the golden handcuffs and some of us are masters of a skillset we’ve been told is practically useless outside of our current field. Someone once told me, “We’re really good at keeping it all together… until we’re not.” The inner conflict finally boils over and we come to a point where our loved ones don’t even recognize us anymore. The evil we’ve been keeping at bay all these years is all we can see in the world anymore. We’re hyper vigilant, hyper controlling, hyper pessimistic, have trouble with anger, possess zero desire to be a part of our community anymore and are jaded to boot. Although things at work may look first-class, we’ve lost our identity.

Who Are You?

As Christians, this identity behind the badge is often completely contradictory to how we’re called to live our lives as followers of Jesus. We need to train ourselves in a new light. We need to consider ourselves servants to the Lord, not the badge. Discipline our bodies and bring them into subjection (1 Cor. 9:27) for a new purpose and a new calling. A calling where we strive for an imperishable crown (1 Cor. 9:25), not brass on our collar or chevrons on our sleeves.

Whether you’ve been a follower of Christ your entire life, just recently saved, or have yet to walk in faith, I implore you to hear me, “YOUR IDENTITY MUST BE IN CHRIST!”

When our identity is in the hands of Jesus, we know where we can go to cry out. We know who we can lean on and who we can speak to without fear of judgment, recourse, or retaliation. Our credibility won’t be at risk when we get on our knees and pray. We know who to look to as an example of how we should be living our lives. When we willingly submit to obedience and our identity is in Him, we can approach the throne and lay all things at the feet of our Lord and know that when we are seeking His Kingdom first, everything we need will be provided (NKJV, 2018, Matthew 6:33). 

The Book of Revelation 2: 17 says, “To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it” (NKJV, 2018). Manna is food. During their 40 years in the wilderness, God miraculously provided a supply of manna, or food, to the Israelites when there was none. The hidden manna referred to is a symbol of God’s word. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (NKJV, 2018, Matthew 4:4). When our identity is in Jesus, we can overcome this world and God will give us all the sustenance we will ever need.

The white stone is a symbolic expression of our freedom in Christ. Thousands of years ago when someone was tried for a crime and acquitted, they were given a white stone as a representation of their innocence. White stones were often gifted to gladiators who were victorious in battle. It was also used as a ticket to gain admission into events. Immanuel means “God with us”. God is surely with us, but we still must put in the work. It comes down to our acceptance of His free gift of grace and the acknowledgment of the work done by Jesus Christ on the cross. We only get this “ticket” because of what Christ did for us. So we must train in a new way. With the same sense of duty and cutthroat allegiance, we had early in our careers through disciplining ourselves by way of prayer, reading scripture, and fasting.

Once we make a conscious decision to not lean on our own understanding but to trust in the Lord with all our heart (NKJV, 2018, Proverbs 3:5) we are able to overcome this world and overcome the obstacles of our career. Overcome suffering, overcome pain, overcome the unknown. And to those who hold the line steadfast and do not lose heart, we are rewarded. Not in the end but in the “New” beginning, with all the sustenance we’ve ever needed directly from God our Father and with the gift of freedom in a new name etched on a white stone. Let us become who we are seen to be through the eyes of our Lord, NOT the eyes of this world. The name that God spoke us forth to be before the Heavens and Earth were formed. The name that God foreknew us into existence before we were created. The name we as Christians strive to be in our walk with Jesus. Our real name. Our true name. The only name of real significance we’ve ever had or will ever have. The name that truly symbolizes who we are and where we’ve been. One that illustrates all the suffering, pain, sorrow, loss, disappointment, confusion, happiness, joy, elation, fun, pleasure, cheer, comfort, and love we’ve ever endured.  Honoring all our memories, past experiences, relationships, and decisions we’ve ever made, culminating in a triumphant entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. The name that reflects our relationship in the body of Christ and as children of God the Father.

So, to this I leave you with two questions. The first, ‘Where does your identity rest?’ Behind the badge on your cleanly pressed uniform. Or in the loving arms of the One who always has and always will carry you and never forsake you? My next question is ‘What name will you answer to?’ An endearing name from your childhood; perhaps the last name on an embroidered patch or nameplate that you pin to that same uniform. Maybe the nickname your buddies on shift gave you after that crazy incident. Or rather, will you answer to the name given to you before time started? A name you worked hard to earn through a life of perseverance in failures and victories. The name that God knew you could become, knew you would become. The only name of value or significance you’ll ever go by. The new name that only you and God know written on the white stone. The name God spoke you forth to be in this world.

MacDonald, G. (1867). Unspoken Sermons (p. 40). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Alone… But Not Alone: Jeremy’s Story

Alone… But Not Alone: Jeremy’s Story

This article was originally published in Law Enforcement Today Nov. 27, 2023

How do you cope with the realities of law enforcement? My career in the Seattle Police Department quickly became a reality check when I was faced with this very question. It didn’t take long before I hit really high highs and really low lows, and although I enjoyed most of the 13 years in the department, the reality was, the job had changed me. 

As a young police officer in a major city, I grew accustomed to responding to the critical calls, but when the danger of the job hit close to home, it became real. In 2009, Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton was ambushed and murdered in my assigned patrol area just hours before my shift began.

Then, one month later, four Lakewood Police Officers were ambushed and murdered in a coffee shop south of Seattle. The suspect was later located while attempting to ambush another Seattle Police Officer. These tragic incidents confirmed my calling into the profession, but it was coming at a cost.

I struggled in my faith, there was tension in my marriage, I was rarely around for my kids, and I was losing hope that any of these would improve. I felt isolated and alone in these struggles, and while my faith was important to me, I had come face to face with my problem. My identity was in the badge. I had allowed this job to take priority over everything else in my life. 

Serving in law enforcement was difficult. The critical incidents were overwhelming, shift work was exhausting, and I didn’t have anyone I could turn to. As I questioned my purpose, the Lord was gently asking me, “Jeremy, who are you serving?” The reality was, I was only serving myself.

The Lord was showing me I had a decision to make. Who was I going to serve? 

When I fully surrendered my life to Christ in 2011, I made a decision to put my identity in Christ, to stop pursuing my desires, and instead say, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8). I had this new hope and identity but who could understand and relate to the things I was seeing and experiencing?

I struggled to find other Christian officers in law enforcement to follow, and when I searched for resources, I found very little. I had officers tell me, “I don’t know how anyone can be a police officer and be a Christian.” To which I replied, “I don’t know how anyone can be a police officer and not be a Christian.”

How do I balance and prioritize my life in this profession, when the pressures of the job are relentless? This was the defining moment, and as I prayed and asked the Lord for help, He began to open my eyes to see I was not alone. My mission had become clear, and a new burden began to grow (Galatians 2:20). I found rest, peace, joy, and purpose in my life again. 

My resolve to pursue the Lord changed how I related to those I served alongside, and it changed how I saw the community I was serving. I no longer desired promotions or career advancement opportunities, nor did I serve for awards, accolades, pay or benefits.

The Lord had changed my heart and given me a burden for something much greater: A burden to share the real hope which can only be found in Christ.

I began to see every 911 call as an opportunity to share hope with the community I was serving. I started to recognize that other first responders around the country were struggling in the same way. Feeling hopeless and alone. They didn’t know who to turn to. The Lord began to open opportunities for me to share hope with them.

Through this journey, God was growing me to step into His greater plan. He was sending me and my family into the first responder mission field.

First responders are mission driven. They serve selflessly and sacrificially. These qualities were attractive to me when I applied for the Seattle Police Department. But early in my career my mission was clearly defined in the job, and not in serving the Lord. Something was out of balance.

When my heart changed, my mission changed. I began to live Mission First for Christ.  When we live Mission First for His Kingdom, He can sustain us through the challenges of the profession. There is nothing in this world that can carry the weight of this career. If we attempt to put our trust and identity in anything other than Christ, it will fail us in the end.

When the Lord says, “Go,” are you willing to listen? The Lord had clearly opened doors and opportunities for us to encourage and unite isolated ministries around the country, bring awareness to the pressing officer wellness issues, challenge the chaplain status quo, walk alongside churches to better understand the culture, and disciple other first responders.

He had given our family a burden to love, support, and reach our nation’s first responders, and their families with hope in Christ. When the riots hit the Seattle Police Department in 2020, we understood our mission. When the City gave up the East Precinct, my former precinct, we understood our mission. When the vaccine was mandated as a condition of employment, we understood our mission and our family stepped out in faith to “go.”

All of this led us to move to Tennessee, and in 2023, we launched a national, nonprofit organization called Mission First Alliance.

There are around 4.6 million first responders serving our communities. How do we support them all? We realized we can’t do it alone.

We see ministries and chaplains working independently from each other. We see churches struggling to understand and connect with the culture. We see first responders and their families struggling to find any supportive resources. We need to come together as one and be unified in the effort. We need a gospel-focused first responder alliance.

Through Mission First Alliance, we are uniting and equipping all who have a heart for our nation’s first responders. They need hope, just as I needed hope. Together we can have a greater Kingdom impact. Now is the time to support them in this meaningful way. We invite you to join us!

If you feel alone, you are not alone.