Will Montei is off this month. Please welcome today’s guest writer, Corrie Van Bemden. Corrie graduated from Calvin in 2014 with dual degrees in history and literature. She currently lives in Colorado Springs, CO where she teaches sixth grade and works for the public library. Outside of work, she spends lots of time reading, exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog, and trying to convince her introverted friends to hang out with her.
When people ask me what my husband does for work, I steel myself for the inevitable follow up: “And how do you feel about that?” My friends whose spouses are nurses or accountants rarely get asked this question. But Paul is a cop, so I’m required to have a strong opinion.
The thing is, people who ask this question are really asking one of the two following questions in a circuitous manner:
- How do you feel about the fact that someone could shoot him?
- How do you feel about the fact that he could shoot someone?
Before I respond, I have to try to determine which of my well–rehearsed and hopefully diplomatic responses to use. This usually involves stereotyping including, but not limited to: age, race, gender, clothing choice, and church affiliation. Based on this non-scientific and pretty terrible screening, I answer in one of the following ways:
- You know, we’ve found a lot of peace through our faith. If he dies, then I know he’s with Jesus. And if he’s terribly injured we have a living will. I know it will be hard, but we’ve planned for it and we have a lot of peace.
- He received some really excellent and ongoing training. I think his undergrad degree is helping him to recognize and try to counteract his biases. His main goal is to help people, and he has been taught so many ways to de-escalate situations and avoid conflict.
- (For when I have no clue—like if they’re wearing Birkenstocks but open carrying a gun) Um, fine. How do you feel about your ________’s decision to work in _________?
The response I would like to give is one which I have never given because I am incapable of crafting it. I would like to give an answer which takes into account the nuances of living in a country where police officers have historically perpetuated systemic racism but also recognizes the fact that within the first three weeks of being on the job, my husband attended the funerals of two different law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty, leaving behind grieving families. I would like to talk about how our faith is a sustaining force in our lives without making it seem flippant. I would like to tell people that we have had close friends and family members tell us frequently that they are praying for Paul because they are worried about the lack of respect people have for authority, others who have told us that they are praying that his worldview would not be skewed to one that is more racist and homophobic. I wish that I could have an open conversation about it with some of the people I work with who tend to lean left and the other spouses of police officers who tend to lean right without being worried that I’m going to hurt people’s feelings.
Most of all, I desperately want to tell someone my three biggest fears. I worry Paul will become paranoid for my safety in a way that will alter our marriage. Other times, I worry that he will be injured and survive but with poor quality of life, and I will have to make decisions about whether to keep him alive. And there are times that I worry he will make a life choice which puts him in a compromising position. All three of these worries are rooted in my own desire for my life to remain comfortable and unchanged. Since I know it is theologically unsound to pray for my life to be comfortable, I find myself praying that Paul will be safe, promote justice, and stay out of the news.