As I read Psalms 23 today, I find it humbling that it has been as true for in my life as it was for Israel’s King David when he wrote it down several thousand years ago:
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (New American Standard Bible)
My life dramatically changed on a cold December day when I was nine years old and my dad, Colorado State Patrolman Thomas Ray Carpenter, was abducted and brutally murdered in cold blood when he stopped to help what appeared to be two stranded motorists. Although I did not always understand or appreciate it at the time, as I look back over my life I can see how blessed I was to have the presence of God watching over me, guiding me through the most challenging moments of my life. Even though I would go through times questioning God, making mistakes, and not staying on the road I was meant to follow, God was always there with me.
I was blessed that in less than ten years Dad had passed on to me the character of his Christian faith and lessons based on this faith that would last me a lifetime. It would be my Christian faith that would lead me to instinctively make key decisions that would have a profound positive impact on my life. Yet, there would also be some equally imprudent poor decisions that I made when I was so very young that would compound this tragedy, nearly taking me down a road God never intended for me to go. My story is as much about my mistakes, and how they took me off course, as it is about my Christian faith. God would use the loving memories of Dad to guide my moral compass each time I would misstep or make a mistakes that would cause me to veer off the road God had intended for me to take.
The path God had set for me would challenge me to repeatedly to step outside my comfort zone and would result in a transformative moment when I was led to become involved with Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.). My experiences with C.O.P.S. profoundly changed my life. Not only did I learn what it meant to be a survivor, I learned how to help others find hope so they too could become a survivor. I discovered the true meaning of forgiveness and realized our need to forgive was tied to our ability to love and be be loved. I came to understand what it meant to be a Good Samaritan, what it took to be one, and how rewarding it was to be a Good Samaritan. Above all, I experienced what it truly meant to be a Christian, to engage my Christian faith and put into action what I had been taught as I witnessed what it meant to do “good works”.
As I write down my story, I am surprised how much I am learning as I reflect with greater introspection than ever before. This has been a deeply personal experience, which has led me to a better understanding of the Bible and how God has been with me every step of my journey. As I look back over my life I can see more clearly what God has helped me to gain following the painful loss of my dad. I find God has given me a greater sense of peace by providing me with greater clarity of the profound affect my faith has had on my entire life, not just my story as it related to surviving the unthinkable loss of my dad.
This extremely difficult journey is one I could not make alone, I would need God and my own Good Samaritans along the way to become a survivor. As a survivor I have been able to move forward with my life to discover the peaceful grace of God by applying lessons to control my anger so I could choose forgiveness over anger, maintain hope through faith, and regain the ability to love and to be loved. By learning to apply Christian principles taught in the Bible, anyone can become a survivor, a Good Samaritan, or both! I pray that by sharing my story it will somehow help others return to the path God meant for them, allowing them to again live the meaningful life of happiness God intended when they were created.
As the Apostle Paul taught us in Romans 5:3-5:
“For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that…they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then…we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us…because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (The Living Bible)