Lessons from a Firefighter

A number of years ago, I was a volunteer firefighter.  It was right after 9/11 and I was compelled to do my part.  I was too old to become an NYC firefighter, but my local volunteer firehouse was willing to let me come on board.

The first lesson I learned was “When you need water you need to find the hydrant wrench.”  On my first call, we had a dumpster fire.  I was told by one of the officers to grab the hydrant wrench and open the hydrant.  I looked and looked and couldn’t find the hydrant wrench.  You want to know why?  I had no idea what a hydrant wrench looked like.  I envisioned this long, strong steel tool had one opening on it.  I would magically place the tool over the fire hydrant and it would suddenly get water to the firefighters.  Unfortunately, I quickly found out that the hydrant wrench was a small tool with two handles.  During the fire the officer-in-charge screamed in my face.  Why?  Because the firefighters needed water.  If the fire left the dumpster, someone could get hurt.  Fortunately, there was another firefighter who knew what he was doing.  He grabbed the wrench and told me, “Don’t worry about it.  You’ll learn quickly.”

The same holds true of our lives.  Many times we see a portion of our life on fire and we think we know what tool to use.  We think to ourselves, “The fire is contained.  It can’t hurt anyone.”  We hear the screams of someone saying to us, “GET THE WRENCH AND GET US WATER!!!!”  It is then that we panic and don’t know what to do.  However, we have a firefighter on our side.  Christ comes besides us, finds the proper tool and says, “Don’t worry about it.  You’ll learn quickly.”  We may not always know what tool to use, but we do have Someone who can help.

The second lesson comes from one of the training classes.  Prior to the class, the same firefighter who help me with the hydrant wrench, told me to be the last one in the room for the next class.  He explained to me the situation, but I thought, “I’m man enough.  I want to experience this.”  We were brought to a large building that simulated two floors.  About 30 probation firefighters were there waiting for the class to begin.  The officer said, “File in one by one and make two rows.”  I was the fifth person in.

The chief had a long stick in his hands and stood next to a stack of wooden pallets that stood about 6 feet high.  He explained, “In order for you to save a life, you need to know what they go through.”  It was then he took this long stick, lit it on fire and placed it under the pallets.  The outer windows were closed.  The doors were closed.  The only thing that was left was an open sky light.  What could go wrong?

As we stood there, the chief explained about how fire works.  Fire always needs three elements.  If it doesn’t have heat, fuel and oxygen, fire can’t exist.  The chief then asked us to look up.  The sky light was gone and nowhere to be seen.  All that filled the air above was smoke.  The chief continued his speech and some of the taller people started to cough.  I thought, “I’m a short guy, this might be easy.”  We were told to go on one knee.  Now everyone could breath again.  That was until, we looked up a couple of seconds later.  Suddenly the tall people started coughing again.  We were then told to get on our bellies.  All thirty of us laid down as the chief talked.  All at once the smoke filled the air and everyone started to cough.  Our bodies couldn’t handle the smoke.

When you are in a smoke situation, your eyes start to water, trying to keep moist.  Your lungs starve for oxygen, that is why you cough.  Just when I thought, “You need to survive this”, I found the most glorious thing I had seen in my life.  A small hole between the foundation of the building and the wall.  I wrapped my lips around that hole and breathed whatever fresh air I could find.  It helped a bit but I needed real oxygen.  We were told to start filing out one by one.  I was one of the last people to leave.  Everyone coughed but some people started to suffer from smoke inhalation.

In our lives, we need ‘oxygen’ and not ‘smoke’.  Our oxygen is our life breath in the Word of God.  We need it daily.  Without it, we start to suffer from ‘smoke inhalation’.  I only say this out of experience.  When I don’t read Scripture, I start to feel the pressures of life on my chest and shoulders.  I start to gasp for air but it is not until I open the Scriptures that I have a breath of fresh air.

The ‘smoke’ is all the other stuff.  It is the things (assumed responsibilities, laziness, video games, TV) that interfere with our intimate time with God.  When we start to spend time with God, we ask ourselves, “How did I survive without Him?”  We need His oxygen to survive.

Take this challenge.  Get a Bible and everyday, sit down, look up and say, “God, let me see you today.”  Then simply start to read.  I would suggest one of the following books to start:

  • John
  • Romans
  • Hebrews

Do this for 30 days.  At the end of the 30 days, see how your life has changed.  Has it become more positive?  Has it become less filled with stress?  In doing this, you will find that God has a bigger plan for you.  You will discover that Christ is the greatest firefighter that ever lived.


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