When we think of peer pressure, it is commonly associated with junior and senior high school. There are probably some positive aspects of peer pressure, but generally it is spoken of in a negative connotation. Peer pressure continues beyond high school graduation, although perhaps more insidiously. It is certainly alive and well for those who work as first responders. At the firehouse and police station, there is pressure to be part of the team. It is linked to our sense of purpose, self-worth, image, and identity. To be candid, every one of us wants to be liked, valued, and accepted.
I was a police officer for 32 years. One of the goals in policing, or in any profession, is to make it to retirement. To come to a place when you can relax a little and enjoy the fruit of your labors. Interestingly, when the goal was about to be achieved, and the sunset on my career was imminent, it became difficult to make the decision to retire. In fact, deciding when to turn the page into the next chapter of life became a most difficult decision. I imagine many of my contemporaries can identify. Perhaps it could be described as surreal when the day comes to turn in your equipment. The alternative, however, is not getting to retire. No one wants that option.
Cops are not all the same. We have different life experiences which impact how we view the world. But many of us have this in common: we don’t like change. And retirement is a big change. Police officers tend to gravitate to the familiar. Being a police officer means you are part of a team. We all wear the same badge.
Part of the difficulty of retirement is a matter of identity. In our culture, one of the first things people typically ask when they meet you is, “what do you do?” When I was an active police officer, my job was certainly part of my identity. It was part of who I was. But there was more that defined me besides that of the title “police officer”. I was a police officer 24/7, but I was also a husband and father 24/7.
The most basic of my identity is in being a Christian; a child of God, a friend of God, a follower of Jesus. When I was a child, I trusted in Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior. Nothing can take away the identity of being a Christian. The Apostle Paul wrote in the book of Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Reverend Billy Graham said “I have never know anyone to accept Christ’s redemption and later regret it”.
In the Gospel of John, 1:12, it says of Jesus “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name”. Later in the same Gospel, Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Was there a time when you placed your trust, faith, eternal destiny, and identity in the person of Jesus Christ? If you have not, the Christmas season is a great time to consider the statements and claims of Jesus.
I have never regretted trusting in Christ. Do I regret the decision to retire? No, I do not. I am grateful for other opportunities. My health has improved, and there is no price tag that can be placed on health. Our youngest child has mentioned that he is glad that I am retired...he is glad that I am home more. I feel the same way. My identity has not really changed. I am a Christian, husband, father, chaplain, and police officer (retired). I should also probably note that “grandpa” is another title recently bestowed.
May God bless you richly,
James T. Woodward, Christian