putting out fires

That ominous figure in the picture above? It’s your girlfriend here putting out fires in my backyard. Near miss. Grateful.

I was in the middle of doing too much (as usual), trying to finish up a 30-page paper when I heard what sounded like a freakish scream in my backyard. My daughter’s dog and I looked at one another then I kept typing. Then came the blood-curdling scream again. It was my husband.

As I stood up, the entire backyard grass was black. I wish I could say I made it out the backdoor in a flash but panicky moments, well, I am a bit unprepared for them. I started to stomp out all the fires that kept springing up from nowhere. Then my husband was telling me to call 911, to go get the hose . . . to go get a bucket.

So I ran to go find the hose – only it wasn’t connected to the faucet and then I could not find the stinkin’ bucket. You get the idea. Stamping out the fires popping up all around me, I realized I could not keep up.

But this got me to thinking . . . every week we have to put out fires of some sort. And we usually react before we think it through. We might be trying to put out fires in our relationships, at our work, in our minds, but using the wrong tools to do so.

Putting Out Fires by Reacting

Putting out fires by instinct can make the flames rise higher. As I was trying to put the flames out with my trusted sneakers, fires kept erupting almost in response. Rather than responding right away in the flesh, we have an opportunity to go to God first. Sound impossible? Don’t believe that! We can train our responses to run to God first. Jehoshaphat was a great example of that.

Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:2–3, ESV).

Jehoshaphat was afraid. Hear that. We will encounter times when life just seems like it is too much. But Jehoshaphat ran to God first. When we feel under fire or attack, we do not have to respond according to what would seem to be a normal reaction.

Putting out Fires by Redacting

I learned this term “redacting” in my studies at LU as it applies to scholars redacting Scripture—not a practice I embrace. But it got me to thinking that we redact the fires in our lives to make them bearable. We might try to “reframe” a situation to tame the flames, so to speak, but redacting does not deal with the real issue at hand. If I were to tell myself not to worry about the fires burning up our yard, they would continue to surge. I needed to deal with the real issue at hand.

Sugar coating the problems we encounter will not bring relief like running to Abba Father will. Neither will seeking to resolve the fires of this life in our own strength.

Life is hard. Putting out fires is not a fun endeavor. But maybe we can learn to deal with the fires in our lives differently and skip the drama.

Putting Out Fires by Retracting

When we remove self from the equation and assess the fires of this life from an eternal perspective that is all about God’s glory, we don’t have to stress out about things not working out the way we would hope. People will reject us, get mad at us, problems will continue to rise just like the sun. But we get to choose how we respond. Retracting myself means I don’t push my agenda. I don’t worry about feeling shame and worrying about my pride. It means I genuinely want to help resolve the fires I encounter with God and to seek His will, not mine.

Whatever fires you face this week, just a tip that sneakers might not be the most effective tool on hand. But God’s word is.

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, ESV).

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