By Jamie Shafer
For almost 12 years Sergeant Chris Wilburn has been serving on the streets of Indianapolis as a part of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. His family background is one of public service, and this example influenced him growing up and has been ever present in his life.
Chris chose to join the department as he and his wife were starting their own family. He knew he wanted to focus on being a husband, a father, and a Christ follower. This role allows him to do all of those things while at the same time investing in the community of Indianapolis.
Investing in others is a consistent theme in Chris’s life, as he is a firm believer in having action-oriented faith. As he reflects on the relationship of faith to everyday work, he shared, “God himself exhibited great service and was a servant to the world. He built faith and that example of service.” While Chris truly appreciates when people in the community thank him for his service, he also acknowledges his own limitations—he wouldn’t be who he is without God’s constant presence in his life as he serves.
Finding What Matters
As we look around our country, it’s easy to recognize that those who are in public service are placed in volatile situations every day. Chris acknowledged it is a tough spot and people have many different ideas about police officers.
He went on to share, “The Bible says we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. A lot of my interactions with people are about what is unseen. The people we are serving are human beings. They make errors. We see people at their worst. It can be difficult at times.”
He strives to look beyond the current hard circumstances and see people as they really are. “I try not to just look at people in their sinful nature. They are a child of the King just like I am. At the moment, their sin may be exposed and mine may not be. But they are just like you and me.”
Although death and difficult circumstances are a part of Chris’s everyday job, he tries to stay focused on eternal things instead of the temporary. He looks to Jesus’ example as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane and notes that Christ expressed his pain and his sorrow instead of shoving it aside as he prepared to face the cross. Chris said, “I hope that people understand the temporary nature of our lives. I don’t shield myself from the hurt and pain. I try to embrace it and keep moving through it.”
Leaving an Imprint
At work, there are times when Chris literally has to stay low to move through a dangerous situation. He notes the parallel with his spiritual life. “I stay low, on my knees in prayer with God, and I keep moving through life.”
Chris is also a gifted vocalist and a trained opera singer. On any given Sunday he can be found helping lead worship at his church. He began singing at church at age 13, and he eventually went on to pursue music and the arts during his education at the University of South Carolina and later during his master’s at Boston University. Although police work became his primary career focus, he has participated in local theater and more recently had the honor of singing the national anthem before the Indianapolis Colts vs. Detroit Lions game on September 11.
Chris is grateful that he has been able to help people and invest in his community. “At the end of our journey,” Chris said, “your degree isn’t going to matter or how big of a house you lived in or how much money you made or the clothes you wore. All that will matter as you stand alone is your relationship with God.
“We have a great opportunity as believers in the context of where we are now in the world,” said Chris. “This doesn’t surprise God. It was like this before we were born. It will be here way after we are gone. The question is what kind of imprint and lasting impression are we going to leave on people?
“Make your interactions with people count. Make them meaningful. This may be the last time you see them. Jesus gave us that example of love. He knew that was the baseline. Love and faith and hope will never fade away.”
Jamie Shafer is a communications strategist for Fishhook Communications in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.