This morning in our Bible fellowship group we talked about suffering and what do we do in the midst of it. Friends that know me well, funny how the topic of suffering would coincide with the date of March 22, isn't it?
27 years ago today my father was a policeman killed in the line of duty.
This is a legacy that until last year at this time, none of my children knew about. I have a picture in a scrapbook of him with my mom. They've asked who that is, but I always just said, "I'll tell you someday." We've talked about how girls last names will change when they get married. They've asked why my last name before Daddy was different than Gigi's (my mom remarried). Honestly, I just skimmed over their question. It wasn't because of divorce. It wasn't because of death caused by illness or an accident. It's one thing to talk about how Cain killed Abel and a whole other thing to talk about how one man killed your own Daddy. This kind of death is not a legacy easily communicated to a child.
I imagined age 10 or 11 would be mature enough for our oldest child (a boy) to process this information. But, at almost 9, I sensed it was time. It was getting harder and harder to hide it. With TV and newspaper interviews, memorial services, and comments from the community while out and about, I didn't want him to overhear such big news. He needed to hear it first from me.
I sat him down in front of an array of photographs and newspaper articles. I pulled out that picture from the scrapbook that all the kids have seen and asked, "Who is that? I'm ready to tell you who this is." Deep breath. Choke back tears. "This is my Daddy."
He was taken aback at first. I explained how PawPaw, the man my son knows as my Dad, raised me and has always loved me like I am his own. But this, this is the Daddy I was born with. "He died when I was Z's age (my then almost 7 year old daughter)." Of course he wanted to know how he died. I explained that he was a police officer, that police officers have a dangerous job and sometimes it means fighting bad guys. Sometimes people make bad choices and that day this man's bad choice caused my Daddy to die. There are bad things that happen in this world, son, but even with these bad things, I believe that God is good. I want you to believe that, too. And, now that you know this, I don't want you to be afraid.
That was my fear. The reality is that some people kill other people. I didn't want his little heart to fear that his own parents, or even himself is at risk for having this same fate. That was one fear (of many) of mine growing up that I made myself ill over. I don't want my kids to live with the same fear. I want to say you are here, you are safe, nothing bad will happen to you. But, I can't make that promise, so I chooose my words caefully. I do my best to usher in security, yet not make promises I have no control over. The truth: my kids will learn that bad things happen to good people. They will also learn that as their mom has gone through "bad things," that she believes wholeheartedly that God is good, sovereign, and gracious. I'm not mad at God.
In fact, Kids, you know what? This hard time that I had to go through is what helped me understand Who Jesus is. God used this situation - one where my Daddy died so that others might be kept safe. The bad man who killed him was put in jail and no one was ever hurt by him again. In that, at the age of 7, I was able to see that likewise, Jesus died so that people would be saved. And for that grace, I'm not sorry. Am I sad? Sure! No one WANTS to experience bad things. Was it fun? Of course not. Would I have chosen that for me? No. BUT!!!! I trust God. And I see how it is what I needed. Not only me, but so many other people. I often share this verse from Isaiah 43:4, "Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in exchange for your life."
"We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Even after 27 years, my thoughts on this part of my story are still evolving. For a long time, I just saw my story through the eyes of a child. Then, once I had children, I saw my story through the eyes of a wife and mother. When (not if) suffering enters your life, the only way to put one foot in front of the other is to hope. Clinging to Romans 8:28 ("All things work together for good for those that love the Lord.") is steady ground to stand on. At this point, 27 years later, I see some GOOD things that have come out of our suffering. Good things that I wouldn't want to be different.
If we hadn't experienced that particular tragedy, I might not have met Staci, a fellow police officer's wife. Staci babysat my sister and I one night and told me about Jesus. I told you how I understood Jsus in parallel with my Daddy's death. We might not have been able to attend Cathedral Christian School where many of the my life-long mentors were then my teachers. I might not have been in an educational setting that encouraged me to follow Christ. And if I wasn't at Cathedral, I might not have met Austin Christopher. If I didn't meet Austin, I wouldn't have known his parents, Gary and Cheryl Christopher (Gary is a photographer by trade; more on them later). My mom might not have gotten her haircut by Ranell. Ranell might not have been in our lives to introduct my mom to her client Sam (Dad). Austin's parents ended up photographing my parent's wedding. My Dad (Sam) might not have given his life to Jesus. We might not have moved to Sour Lake where we ended up living next door to my mom's best field (more on them later). As a new family unit, my parents sought out a church home to raise their family in. We might not have visited First Baptist Church of Beaumont. I might not have made friends with Drew who because a friend from the youth group. If the Christophers (mentioned earlier) hadn't been the photographers at my parent's wedding, I probably wouldn't have known them to take my senior pictures. If I hadn't known the Christophers, they wouldn't have been able to suggest to this guy named Trey that there's a girl he should meet. If I hadn't known Drew from First Baptist, who knew Trey from Sour Lake, he wouldn't have been able to say, "Hey, I know that girl" as my name (or PICTURE rather) came up in a random conversation over dinner among football teammates. if we wouldn't have lived in Sour Lake next door to my mom's best friend, I might not have been able to borrow her daughter's school yearbook to "google" Trey Behn. And if I might not have met Trey Behn...
Life wouldn't look like this:
A world without suffering is yet to come. But until that day, I've lived that suffering produces endurance... which produces character... which produces hope... all because of love. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Selah.
Paul Douglas Hulsey, Jr.
Beaumont, TX Police Department
End of Watch - March 22, 1988