In this field, you begin to see that life doesn’t always cease at the end of a long life, but can cease suddenly and very unexpectedly. However, to have an individual die in my hands while I was trying to save him, that will absolutely change your worldview and perspective on life. Seeing his wife and kids there, it was shocking and devastating. That was a huge turning point in my life. I started to question my purpose, my faith and if I could even continue in this job.
I had grown up in church to about 14 years old, and knew the Gospel and knew about Jesus. Now seeing death and dying first hand, I realized I only believed it because someone told me I should. At this point, I’m struggling with my belief in God. Is this life really all there is or does God truly exist and offer us a life after death? Now I’m a police officer and if there is life after death, I needed proof, “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” So at that time, I started reading the Bible, literally, cover to cover. What I figured out through reading Scripture was that I was a good man, a good father and on my way to being a pretty good police officer, but I was NOT saved.
By May 28, 1978, I had made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of my life. However, I was working the midnight shift and was so tired that I didn’t want to go to church that morning. I turned on the radio for some background noise so that I could fall asleep. To my surprise, there was an evangelist talking about “No excuse Sunday!” speaking on how there will always be an excuse as to why we ‘can’t’ go to church, but no excuses this Sunday. If you want the beach, they had sand at the Church, if you wanted to go swimming they had a rubber pool, everything you could want to do, the Churched was providing that morning. No EXCUSES for not going to Church!. I KNEW he was talking directly to me. I jumped out of bed, went to church and that morning I turned my life over to Jesus Christ. I surrendered my life to Jesus, and it changed my life forever. Once you decide “Is there a God: yes or no” that impacts and guides every decision you will make after that. My job became my calling, my ministry. (Ephesians 2:10)
As soon as I surrendered to Jesus Christ, the attacks began. Back in 1991, I was Chief of Patrol. That job had a reputation for grinding people down so it was usually a short-term assignment that they rotated people through because of the stress that came with it. One day, I was walking over to the drill hall and a young officer stopped me. He said, “Do you mind if I ask you a question? I’ve seen other Chief of Patrols and you are different. You are always smiling, and it’s like you have no problems.” I told him, it’s because this is a calling for me and not a job. It’s a ministry. That makes all of the darts and arrows that come your way, all the difficulties, easier to accept. This is my ministry, so even in adversity, I can be at peace because I know He is in control. My worldview was different – my happiness in life wasn’t dependent upon being sheriff or climbing a ladder. It was dependent upon doing what God wanted me to do. There’s a lot of peace and empowerment in God’s Grace.
Fun Fact: Sheriff John Rutherford has been married for 44 years to his high school sweet heart. When asked what’s his secret, he replied: “I’ve been married for 44 years because I learned three simple responses; Yes dear. You’re right dear and I’m sorry dear.”