Between My Feet
By Catherine Draeger, MA
I sat, staring out the window. I was still praying, crying, and wondering what to do when my husband got home. He’d left a short time ago to attend the third funeral in just over six months of a friend and co-worker who had ended their own life. In such a short period of time, I had watched my husband iron his uniform with sharp creases and wear a black memorial strap over his badge. I was at a loss. I know I am supposed to support my husband, but I didn’t know how. I hadn’t read a book or been in a Bible study that covered this subject, and I didn’t have friends I could call who had been there before. I was scared, lonely, and afraid of the unknown.
Six years ago, while sitting in that chair, I had a lot of time to think. Both my husband and I were in careers we loved. I enjoyed helping plan events that would meet the physical, social, and spiritual needs of international students through InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. My husband was developing into a very fine police officer protecting and serving our community. For the first several years of his career, I hadn’t noticed the impact his career choice had on my life.
Over the years, I began to realize that my husband had chosen a career that he couldn’t just leave at the door when he came home. I started to realize how his heart came home at night. How many abused kids can he see before it affects his relationship with our kids? How many scenes does he have to arrive at wondering if there is someone aiming a gun at him? How many unbuckled kids does he have to see in the back seat when he arrests a mom for selling drugs? How many college kids have to die in his arms because they were trying to pay their way through college working delivery and were killed for a few bucks?
I was flooded with the memoires of the stories my husband recounted to me, which returned as vividly as the first time I heard them; I began to connect the dots. I also realized that I have the hope of Jesus in my life, and yet I sit here overwhelmed, visualizing my husband’s stories. What about those people that don’t have a place to find hope?
At that time, a phrase Jill Briscoe mentioned in a message I heard several years ago came to mind. It was just a line filed in my brain, “Your greatest mission field is what is between your own two feet.”
I distinctly remember thinking, “I hope someone in the room is listening, and will take the advice to heart. I’m already in full-time ministry, but that would be great for those so busy with work and family.” I let Jill’s comment come and go. But I couldn’t shake the thought. I just allowed it to brew. While my husband was attending the third funeral, I sat in my chair looking out the window and asked God for wisdom and direction. I saw the man I married changing before my very eyes. It was then that Jill’s buried message moved a whole lot closer to home.
In the coming days, I wanted to know if I was alone. Was I the only one who didn’t know how to support their police officer husband? Was I the only wife sitting alone, not sure what to do? It dawned on me that while I had been so busy, I didn’t really know any other police families. And so with a hot cup of coffee, I boldly walked up the street to where I knew another police family lived and introduced myself.
Hungry for knowledge and wisdom, I wanted to get my hands on every book, article, and website ever written on the subject. I was shocked to find so few. I looked to find a police wives support group to join but found none. In that moment, I realized I had a choice. If I wanted to serve in the mission field “between my own two feet,” I had to do something about it.
Between my feet marriages were falling apart. Most statistics say 75 percent of police marriages end in divorce.
Between my feet hundreds of officers were dying each year across the country while on duty, with two to three times more officers taking their own lives.
Between my feet women were coordinating family schedules around rotating off-days and unplanned overtime, and significant others missing birthdays and holidays, often working second and third shift schedules while the kids are young.
Between my feet, families were worrying about a knock at their door telling them the unimaginable had happened.
Between my feet, were women who, if they attend a church, attend alone or just with their kids. Some studies say that of the police officers who attended church before they become officers, only 10 percent continued to attend regularly after one short year of being an officer.
Between my feet, women are sitting awake with their husbands during all hours of the night, as they have nightmares that just won’t go away.
Between my feet is the “Thin Blue Line,” an extended family who would give anything for each other.
Between my feet, people are desperately looking for something to give them hope.
Sitting in that chair pondering Jill’s comment with God’s vision and confidence birthed into an organization called Shielded Hearts. We are now a strong community of women in long-term committed relationships with men in law enforcement who encourage one another to find hope in police life through education, friendship, service, and faith.
It took something tragic for me to ponder what is between my own two feet, but the needs around us aren’t always so dramatic. What’s between your two feet? Who are the people that surround you at work, your kids’ school, your neighborhood, your gym, your church, your craft club? We live in a culture where it is nearly impossible and most likely unwise to add something to our schedules. And yet God has asked us to “‘Love our neighbors as ourselves’” (Mk. 12:31). Our neighbors are all around us. Maybe we don’t need to seek out and be sent to a mission field in some far away land; maybe one is already…really… between our own two feet.
If you have a moment to think about all those neighbors, you may start to feel overwhelmed at the thought of meeting all of their needs. Be assured, it’s a good thing we aren’t expected to be the Savior of those around us! We are just supposed to love them. But love takes time. Love takes forethought. Love takes energy. Yes, loving our neighbors can honestly be exhausting. But the other good thing is that God doesn’t mandate how we love our neighbor just that we do. So how about doing something that you enjoy? Have you ever been the recipient of a meal made with love? I recently delivered a meal that someone else made, and the recipient said with a thick New York accent, “Whoever made that must have used their own hands to knead the ingredients, because I tasted the sweetness of her heart!”
Maybe you like to bake, listen, organize, watch children, or write. Look around, many people would be blessed with whatever you have to offer, because we all have different strengths! Try combining something you are passionate about, with some of the people already around you, and do it on purpose.
Why do we take time out of our busy schedules to love those around us? We do so because we have tasted the hope that God offers. We can love others because God’s Word says, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 Jn. 4:11-12).
Often times, we don’t have the opportunity to share the whole message of the hope that God offers us. But, like a fire, if we persevere enough to keep feeding the fire, the hope of Christ will shine brightly through us!