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View from the pew

February 01, 2002|By Jerry Godsey

Special to this newspaper

On Jan. 29 of last year I began a new job at the Imperial County Sheriff's Office. For the first time in about 15 years I am working at a secular job.

I have to admit, when I first took this job the idea was to work here a year or so, then go teach in a high school somewhere. My plans have changed.

What I didn't count on was loving this job. I didn't realize that I would wake up every morning excited about the day was to come. I had no concept that working at the Sheriff's Office would be as satisfying as anything I have ever done.


I tell people all the time that I have the best job at the Sheriff's Office, and I do. Where else can a grown man get paid to play with robots, build Web sites, drive cool cars, go to schools, be in parades and make a difference in the lives of people who may never meet me? So far, only here at the Sheriff's Office, and only in my department in my position. How cool is that?

I get to wear a uniform that represents a fine tradition of law enforcement in Imperial County. I am proud to wear the same clothes every day. The clothes are a symbol of something greater than myself or any of the men and women who wear them. The uniforms are all the same so we show a united front to the public. They are green and tan because — well, I don't know why they're green and tan. I just know they are. Like the hardening of Jell-O or polka music fans, there are some things that can't be explained.

We wear a badge to show that we represent the people we protect. We even protect the people we arrest. That sounds strange, but I have seen many times where the only thing that saved somebody's life is the fact they were arrested and forced to get help.

We have cool vehicles. The occasions I have had to drive a patrol unit have been enjoyable. Traffic does have a tendency to slow down all around the patrol units, however. For some reason, my crime prevention van does not seem to inspire the same fear and dread in the people around me.

Our deputies have all gone to a rigorous academy, spent time working in our jail, been mentored by a field training officer and been taught how to handle themselves in tense circumstances. Our deputies carry pepper spray, an expanding baton and a gun. They have even been taught hand-to-hand combat.

I, on the other hand, have no weapons other than my devastating good looks and my ability to run pretty fast for a man my size. OK, realistically, I have no weapons.

Even though I look like one of the deputies, I am not one. I haven't had their training. I don't have their weapons. I don't have their cool cars. I'm kind of like them, but not quite.

I have noticed a lot of people in churches who are like that. They come to church every Sunday, sing in the choir and blend in with the crowd. But when it comes down to the important stuff, they just aren't the same. They may think they are doing OK. After all, just being there is the important thing, right? Wrong.

When the Queen Mary was being converted from an ocean liner to a floating hotel, her three massive smoke-stacks were taken off to be scraped down and repainted. But on the dock they crumbled. Nothing was left of the 3/4-inch steel plate from which the stacks had been formed. All that remained were more than 30 coats of paint that had been applied over the years. The steel had rusted away.

When Jesus called the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs," he meant they had no substance, only an exterior appearance. If being a Christian doesn't do anything more than just change your Sunday morning location, what good is it doing you? You are merely a whitewashed tomb. You look good on the outside, but you are spiritually hollow.

One of the saddest verses in the Bible is where Samson tries to free himself from the Philistines. Delilah has already given him the cheap haircut, and he says, "I'll shake myself as before." Then the Bible blares out the devastating sentence, "But he did not know the spirit of God had left him."

I worry about the "whitewashed tombs in our churches." When the time for their faith to really carry them comes, they may find nothing to lean upon. That would be sad, indeed.

Looking for whitewashed tombs in my own life … Jerry

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