Sunday, September 1, 2013

Used To Be

This isn't just a story I wrote. It really happened. All of it. I titled it "Used to Be" because the man in this story put so much value in what he used to be... to this day he still does. Until recently our daughter would proudly tell perfect strangers, "My daddy used to be a cop." because he had said it to her and in front of her so many times. For his sake and for hers I pray that he someday does something he can be proud of so that he no longer has to tell people what he used to be.

Used To Be

“I know what I'm talkin' about. I used to be a police officer.” he says as I mop the floor of the gas station. “I'll never work with this town's department. It's too political. I'll find a cop job somewhere though.” I nod and smile genuinely, sure that he will. I don't answer audibly, but he's the kind of guy who really doesn't need an answer to continue with a story.

“I was good you know. I graduated top of my class. You know that guy who was in here earlier? Harry. He graduated like, eighth. They like him here though because he does what they tell him to. Never mind that he's a bad cop and he beats his wife.” I pause for a moment and look at him, expecting more of an explanation as to how he knows this, but I don't get one. He just continues, “Cops know how to do it and not get caught ya' know...” he stops talking for a moment to concentrate on what he is doing.

I've finished mopping the front of the store except for the path where we walk out and he's counting the money from the cash register so I move on and inventory the cigarettes. I carefully use the step-stool to reach the packs that are stored particularly high so I don't fall gracelessly in my short denim skirt and pink sweater. My heeled sandals aren't meant for cleaning a gas station so those are already kicked off and waiting for us near the door. I count each cigarette pack and case, writing totals lightly in pencil so he can re-do the page his own handwriting.

He writes a number down on his register tape and continues “Did you know the top of your head doesn't bruise?” He pauses and I realize he actually wants an answer.

“Really?” I say incredulously.

“Well, if it does nobody can see it under all the hair. Between your fingers doesn't either.”

“Oh, I didn't know that.”

“Yep. You learn a lot of things like that as a police officer.”

He finally declares himself finished and punches out on the time-clock as we head towards a late movie in the next town over. I make a joke about how I worked harder to close down the store than he did and I didn't even work there. He takes it as a compliment, “Well, I guess you just couldn't wait to get some time alone with me.” I just giggle in response.

Seven months later, I remember that conversation with chills. I lay in bed and wrap my arms around my growing belly that holds our daughter. My head aches, inside and out as I sob, remembering how he used my hair to drag me from the bed just the day before. Replaying every moment in my mind, I see myself running to get away from him, his every step in pursuit pounding in my ears. Eventually, I give up. He holds me down on the couch with his knee and screams viciousness at me. I cower and curl into the fetal position, arms and legs pulled up and wrapped around to protect the only part of me that has any innocence left.

There were no bruises to convince the judge, but there was fear, and that must have been enough. Now I grip these papers that a judge handed me this morning and wonder if they will be enough to keep him away.  What is a piece of paper to a maniac? What is a piece of paper to a man who argued with the judge, “I shouldn't have to give up my guns. I know what I'm talkin' about. I used to be a police officer.”

I know who I used to be. I am reminded daily in a million different ways. I still fight daily to tell remind myself that that girl doesn't exist anymore. But I am fighting. I'm not giving up.

I am so thankful that God doesn't care who I used to be. He doesn't look at the things I'm doing today and tell me, "You know what stupid choices you've made... you should probably not try to succeed at anything new either." He doesn't tell me I'm worthless. He doesn't tell me I'll never be anything more than I used to be.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
Thank you Lord for using me... my stumbles, my falls, my triumphs and my stories... for Your glory. My life is yours. Help me remember that every single day.
I don't ever again want to be what I used to be.

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