CLEF Newsletter - April 2017
“Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
Dick Toneck died last month. Dick started out as a police cadet in 1960 when he was 17, came on the SDPD as a Patrolman in 1963 and retired as a Captain in 1993. He was “all-in” as an officer and it was what he ultimately aspired to be in life. And he became very good at being just that. And to do your job well, as any warrior must know, you cannot fear death, as it makes you weak. You must respect it; you must understand and guard against it… do all you can reasonably and astutely do to avert it. But if you give in to fear it, it will dominate and oppress you, and eventually take you. We’ve all heard the real life stories of what it takes to stay in the fight, and not give in to panic or hysteria. Legion are the stories of those with relatively minor injuries who, because they convinced themselves out of alarm and terror that they were going to die, do. And conversely, those with a supreme will to survive, against all expectation, do. Dick did his job with confidence and enthusiasm, without much thought about dying. It was there, but he didn’t really think about it. Exercise good officer safety, have situational awareness and remaining in code-yellow will make your world secure. But we’re also at least somewhat aware that sometimes no matter what you do, there is no surviving. Eight years into his career Dick encountered that reality and it colored everything in his life from then on.
On October 7th, 1971, Dick and a sergeant named Freddie Edwards, a thirteen year veteran, were on a third watch meet one night along El Cajon Blvd. They broke, and a very short time later Freddie radioed for assistance behind a 7-11 store at 52nd. Dick arrived on scene and found Sgt. Edwards on the ground in front of his patrol car, shot in his chest and head. All he could do was hold him until the ambulance arrived. Freddie died within the hour. In those moments of fleeting mortality, Dick never felt more helpless. Freddie left a wife and two young children behind. When Dick eventually made it home, he couldn’t let go of his young son Dan’l. Another little boy would grow up without a dad.
An experience like that changes you. The world you thought you knew becomes not as predictable, not as dependable, not as knowable or certainly secure. Suddenly everything you value most is at risk, and you’re not so sure about where you fit in. A rotating axis has shifted and what was a discernable pattern now makes no sense and you wonder how matters can go on. But they do, because you change to fit the real pattern that was there all along. Life is unpredictable, unfair, often unjust and unforgiving. But who wants to live in a world like that? We are often forced to comply with circumstances not of our choosing, but in their midst, choosing to trust in a God Who answers when we call on Him (Jerimiah 33:3), keeping hope alive for the good when we face seemingly insurmountable odds (Hebrews 6:19), and doing the right thing for the welfare of those around you is to put on and reflect the image of this world’s creator and redeemer. In the battle for Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings) J.R.R.Tolkien writes: “The world in indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater…there is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”
From that time forward, just as tightly as he embraced his son that morning Dick began to embrace in a much tighter and committed way a trust, hope, and exuberant, others-oriented love of a God he knew was there. His world remained unpredictable and heart breaking at times, but never far from the good God’s grace works when we reflect His image throughout. Dick’s deeper trust in God made him resilient, and gave him deep seated peace.
Dick’s remaining life was marked by grace, hope and love, with a wife and two children who grew up with a dad who knew how to love them well. Those who worked for him found him approachable, trustworthy, and more than all else kind. Last month, facing an operation he knew he may not survive, he remained at peace. As he barely clung to life after surgery, he knew the day had come; time was short. As the hours passed, words of exquisite beauty were spoken and received by that family, gestures embraced. Fifty years of marriage carries so much to acknowledge. That night, Scriptures were spoken, prayers were prayed, and held by his wife, daughter and son, they bid him farewell and as the strain of his favorite Hymn, Amazing Grace was sung, he passed with a sigh.
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27)
This year’s Annual Law Enforcement Prayer Breakfast is upon us, May 12th. Seats are still available. A remarkable speaker, scrumptious food, and even better association with your fellow state, local and federal warriors, is all together to bid you encouragement, inspiration, and a deep-seated peace. Join us! You won’t forget it.