CLOSE TO HOME – Hanging by a thread
By Steve Brnjas
By Steve Brnjas
There were times in my 18 years of policing that were particularly dark. Even though I had a strong faith, hope was distant. Not that I let on. My family did not know and heaven forbid that my co-workers would see my veil slip. I felt there would definitely be a stigma if I saw a counsellor paid for by the service. What if word got back to my NCOs? So I just slipped further and further into the darkness.
The last time this occurred, my family and I had gone to a favourite camp for a summer vacation. I got up one morning before 6 a.m., grabbed my Bible and walked into the woods. I was not sure if I would come back.
I went to a rock that sat at the edge of a lake, heard a friend start up his boat and watched as he glided out onto the lake to go fishing. Soon he was out of sight and I was left alone. God seemed very far away from me, and had been for some time. I would often say that I was holding on to the thread of His cloak… and I was holding on for dear life.
I looked up into the sky. “Lord, I am in a very bad place. My hope is gone. I need something from you that shows me that things will change, otherwise I do not know what I will do.” I knew I should not do what I was about to do.
As a response I randomly flipped open my Bible. My finger fell on Jeremiah 29:11. It was God speaking through the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites. They were in captivity in Babylon. Their hope was also gone. I felt God was speaking the words directly to me.
I was not sure how, but those words changed my world. My God made a promise to me. I was not abandoned or hopeless. My God did not forget who I was or turn His back to me. Something was going to change. I walked out of that forest and back to my loving family, who were just beginning to stir to begin the day’s fun.
Within a year, I received a miraculous call to pastoral ministry. I felt God’s hand was clearly on this decision. Ever since that morning 10 years ago, I have been on a steady journey of self-discovery and discovering who God really was. Though at times I look wistfully at a passing cruiser with its roof lights and siren going, I recognize that season has passed. I can look back at my policing career and remember those who had my back through those difficult times, even though they did not know how bad the times were for me.
To those men and women in both blue and white shirts, I say a great “Thank You.” I also wished I had talked to them more about what I was going through. Maybe I would never have gotten to the point of being beside a lake with my life hanging in the balance (did I mention that I was a lousy swimmer?).
I am not a counsellor, but I have been to that dark place. No copper should have to go through the dark places alone. If you are in a very dark place right now, I urge you to find someone to talk to. For some it might be God, for others it might be a friend or counsellor. I am not Superman but you can email me if you would like (email@example.com). Find someone you trust who will listen.
I remember sharing my story very honestly, including the dark times, a few years ago at a men’s breakfast. Unknown to me, there was a police officer there who later shared with me how he had been at that point a year earlier. It was only the pictures of his family on his desk that snapped him out of it.
I wonder how many others are out there, hanging by a thread.
Steve Brnjas served 18-years with Waterloo Regional Police and is currently an ordained pastor with the Mennonite Churches of Eastern Canada. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 519 807-1134.