By Pastor and Police Officer Jimmy Meeks.
I do NOT like to work overtime. Period. I simply don't like it. Years ago, my sergeant approached me at the end of my 8 hours and asked. "Jimmy; the next shift is short on manpower. Do you wanna work 4 hours over?"
My reply came with lightning speed: "Sarge, I didn't want the first 8 - why would I want 4 more?"
He made me work over.
We work 12 hour shifts now, so when the end of the tour nears, I am ready to "G-O."
Such was the case the other night. I was scheduled to get off at 7 p.m. At 5:30 I was already itching to go. I was fearful that a late call would come out and I'd be stuck there all night.
My fears came true...
"Dispatch to 555, respond to a shoplifting at Kirkland's Grocery Store, 700 East Main..."
That's what I was afraid of. I wanted to get home on time. I had a long trip the next day; a Sheepdog Seminar in Arkansas. I didn't want to work over a couple of hours on a shoplifting call. But if there is one thing I am being taught these days, it is this: "MY time is HIS time" - period.
I headed over to Kirklands, parked my patrol cruiser and went inside. I would tend to this call with the speed of a road-runner.
Once I got in the office, I saw the offender: A 25-year old female sat before me, her head hanging down.
"What did she take?" I asked the Loss Prevention Officer.
I looked to my right and saw several cans of Similac. I turned my attention to the young lady in custody...
"Why did you take baby formula? You have kids at home?"
"Yes sir. I have a baby at home that needs formula...and I'm out. I also have two other kids..."
My immediate concern at that point was the whereabouts of the children.
"What's your name?"
"Monica, where are your children? Who are they with?"
"They're at home."
"How old are they, Monica?"
"Well," she continued, "the baby is 7 months, the middle one is 1 and the oldest is 7..."
"Who are they with? Who's watching them?"
"NO ONE? They're alone?" My voice raising as we talked.
"Well, I asked my neighbor to look in on'em, but I...I don't know if she will."
I turned toward the store manager.
"Ed, we're gonna have to go and check on the children. I'll then decide what to do about taking her to jail. You ok with that?"
"Of course, do what you need to do..."
I've arrested mothers in the past who played the "I-have-children-at-home" card. I assumed Monica was tugging at my heartstrings, and I expected that when I arrived at her apartment, there'd be adequate supervision for the kids (if there were kids). I even suspected that she might be stealing baby formula, and then selling it for cash.
"Monica, let's get to my car and over to your house."
She only lived a few blocks away.
Once at her apartment, we rushed up the stairs. She opened the door and there they were: The 1-year old came running down the hall toward me, snot and spit on his face, smiling from ear to ear. I looked to my right and saw the 7-year old engaged in a TV show. He jumped up and smiled at me.
I followed Monica down the hall into her room. Lying in a crib was a... baby. An empty bottle lay at his side.
No adult was around - Monica's neighbor was nowhere to be seen.
"Monica, you can't leave your children alone. They're just babies."
"I didn't know what to do, Officer Meeks. I'm out of milk and the baby's hungry."
Her tears began to well up. She was terribly embarrassed.
The cupboards were almost bare: food, too, was scarce.
"Monica, where's the daddy? Can't he help you?"
The reply was one I have heard dozens of times in my 34 years as a cop: "The daddyS are gone."
"DaddyS" - the kids in the room each had a different father: each were growing up with a father who was absent.
The scene was taking the air out of my lungs. I knew I had to to take her to jail, but the kids - the two oldest now staring at me - had nowhere to go.
Monica's father had died this past summer; the mother had moved away. Her siblings - all 7 of them - were nowhere in the area. This single mom had not a soul in the world to turn to.
Monica's apartment was only 4 blocks from MY house. This was my neighbor...
I looked at her face. She looked so pitiful, so helpless.
I knew what many others would tell Monica: "be responsible, step up to the plate and start doing the right thing. Get a job. There's thousands of single moms out there in your predicament, Monica: they don't steal milk!"
The scene reminded me of the biblical story of the Woman Caught in Adultery. Would I go ahead and "stone" her (i.e. take her to jail), or choose a less drastic route?
"Monica, it breaks my heart to see you in this situation. I don't quite know what to do."
On the drive over to her apartment I had called my sergeant and told him my plans. "Sarge, if there's children at her place, with no supervision, I'm gonna give her a ticket and cut her loose." I have a compassionate sergeant whom I love like a brother. "You bet Jimmy...sounds good."
A thought came to me: It's not good enough to just give her a ticket and cut her loose. I am not just a cop: I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My obligation to Him far outweighs my obligation to the law. I will do what He did...
What did He do?
He not only forgave me for what I did: He PAID FOR MY CRIMES. I thought of an old hymn we used to sing:
"Was it for CRIMES that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!"
I would pay for her crime. I couldn't just ignore her crime, but the milk - that was for the baby.
"Monica, I'm gonna cut you loose with a ticket. And I'm going back to the store to pay for the milk formula you stole and bring it to you. I'll be back in a few minutes..."
She was by no means prepared for that. Her past encounters with the police had not worked out that way: you do the crime, you do the time.
I headed out the door. On the stairwell outside her apartment, I broke. My tears welled up and I let them flow. The "Monicas" of the world are everywhere: single moms struggling to make ends meet, absent fathers doing their own thing, impregnating other women along the way. Sex feels too good to pass up, and if a baby comes along, oh well...
As I made my way to my patrol car, I began to understand why I was crying. The tears were coming from another world, another One who understood the pain of humanity. One who Himself had shed tears in a sorrowful situation.
"Jesus wept." (John 11:35)
I headed back to Kirklands and purchased the milk, then took it back to Monica. She was grateful.
Fellow Sheepdog, fellow believer, fellow Christian officer, this is HOW we will change the world for the better. We must NOT wait on Washington to pass the right laws and then distribute more free money. We must not wait on governmental assistance or any other such program.
Instead, WE MUST TAKE MATTERS INTO OUR OWN HANDS!
I couldn't help but remember the story of Jesus and the Woman at the well. If you recall, Jesus, wearied from His journey, stopped at Jacob's Well while the disciples went into town to buy food.
While they were gone, Jesus gave new life to a woman who had lived with much shame. Upon there return, they were stunned that he was engaged in a conversation with a woman. She had been so touched by Christ that she hurried into town, then sharing with them all what had happened.
Meanwhile, back at the well, Jesus and HIs disciples began an historic conversation. They offered Jesus some food, but He refused, saying that He had had already eaten. The disciples were puzzled. Then Jesus explained: "My food is to do My Father's will."
He then told them a truth that has long eluded the church: "Behold, I say to you, LIFT UP YOUR EYES and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!"
Did you catch those words? Look at them again: "LIFT...UP...YOUR...EYES..."
What is implied in this statement? What's implied is that their eyes are not LIFTED UP; instead, they are looking down.
Now what happens to the believer that instead of LIFTING UP THIER EYES, they are looking down? If you are "looking down," you are centered on your self. If you are looking down, you are preoccupied with your own life, your own needs and problems.
You are living a life where your primary concern is not the Glory of God or the Advancement of His Kingdom. No, instead, you are one of those believers caught up in the "Bless ME Lord Movement."
You pray about the new car, the better job, the raise on pay.
The world is filled with evil and it awaits the manifestation of the Children of God. We - the salt and light of the world - must turn our attention to the lost and downcast of society.