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Behind The Tape

Monday, 25 January 2016


      Over my career I've given a lot of thought to the old wartime saying "There are no atheists in foxholes" and while the quote can be argued both ways, my own faith grew from my time in the foxhole. Before I began my job as a crime scene investigator, I came from the adrenalin-filled world of a police tactical team. Every night was a thrill ride of life and death, yet ironically, it didn't draw me closer to God.

One of the guys who trained me as a baby CSI was a crusty bear of man with no social skills. He normally hid behind a wall of crass humor, so the day he shared the emotional experience of starting his career as a crime scene investigator, I paid close attention. He said he almost didn't make it through his first year because he was so affected by the senseless suffering and man's inhumanity to man. Hearing those words in the twilight of his career as the sun rose on my career touched me, and I repeated them to myself on many a cold and bloody night.

I spent the first year shaking my fist at God. Surely no God would allow the things I'd seen. My shaky foundation of Christianity was crumbling as I reached out and lashed out at the people around me. I had deep spiritual discussions with friends who were Atheist, Pagan, and Christian, and those who leaned towards the Eastern religions.

For all their arguments about cosmic accidents, I simply could not wrap my mind around the Atheist claims when I watched the sun bounce off a dragonfly as it skittered across the pond. There was too much beauty and order in this world for me to believe it was pure chance, yet I also wasn't ready to embrace the peaceful emotional distancing my Eastern friends practiced. It is hard to emotionally distance yourself when you're standing in blood. So I continued to lash out at a Christian God, even though I recognized the irony. One must actually believe in God to shake your fist at him. Scratch me as an Atheist. I had to admit I was a disillusioned and very angry Christian.

Then a couple of things happened. One morning a Christian neighbor made the polite "How's work going?" inquiry at the mailbox. Instead of snarling a confrontational spat at her God, which would have horrified her to the core, and despite it all, I did still have some social skills left, I gave her an honest answer. Rather than labeling me a godless sinner, she said something profound.

"Even David spent some time shaking his fist at God."

Hmmmm. . . I didn't realize at the time how freeing those words would be, for they gave me the license to be angry. This cooled me off enough to explore the idea, so I did something I'd never done before. I sat down and actually read the book. Yes, The Book. I bought a Bible, and studied it. I was still a bit puzzled by the blind faith I saw in friends but passed it off as good people who had never truly seen the horrors this world has to offer. I was different though. I knew dark things. I was jaded. I was tainted. A cloud of death followed me, staining the world with blood and the smell of maggots. And I was angry about it.

Then I stumbled into an Episcopal priest. I crossed through the red doors that changed my faith.  Instead of responding with shocked indignation, he fielded all the tough questions I hurled at him with a quiet accepting patience. Perhaps he understood that he was God's surrogate and thus shouldered the brunt of my hostility. I couldn't sit across from God and throw accusations, but this Man of God would do just fine. Through him I could argue with the Lord. Sometimes he had no answers to my biting questions, but he had enough respect not to blow smoke up my butt. I wasn't going to be satisfied by the smoke and mirrors or patronizing words that led to false faith.

Over time I was able to take a breath and look past the suffering. Since I wasn't able to wrap my mind around the idea that there was no God, and there was no satisfying answer to the question of why God would allow such horror, my next issue was to address my own involvement in this play. On this stage of life, what was my role? That's when the door to my faith cracked open and the light flooded in.

I was wading into unspeakable pain, but maybe there was a reason. Perhaps, just perhaps, God put me there because He wanted me in the middle of this chaos. Perhaps we are all tools in God's workshop. We have all been given certain talents and skills in this life. These gifts are not ours to squander. I was gifted with the remarkable ability to wade into the gore and the heartache, to look past the stench and seek the truth, but I was also cursed with a deep empathy for the suffering of others.

Because of my gift, I was the voice of the victim who could no longer speak.  But could my curse be someone else's blessing? I gave this some thought. Maybe it was time to embrace this painful curse. With that new outlook I began to walk into each crime scene and ask mself, outside of the professional processing of the scene, why does God have me here? In each case the answer was there behind the crime scene tape. Sometimes I was the sword of His justice, but other times I was His hand of comfort to the victim's loved ones in what was arguably the worst day of their lives. And I was there. I was there to hold the woman who had lost a husband. I was there to lift up the father as he cried on the floor over a lost child. I was there for it all.

And that experience changed my faith. This wasn't about faith that keeps you safe in a foxhole while the battle rages outside. This was the faith that God still walks with bloody footsteps through the carnage outside the foxhole to find his sheep.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 07:19 am   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email

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