Sometimes, it’s too late and the fire is already raging. There are two choices. It can either be left to burn itself out or an effort can be made to extinguish the fire with the hope that the damage will not be too bad. Sadly, both options end up with damage and hurt to some extent.
Fighting fire is a dangerous thing. Decisions will likely end up being made in split-seconds – this is where experience and training is very useful. Methods to fight fires are the same but every fire must be treated with respect – each fire is different. It isn’t a simple matter of putting a fire out but, rather, it’s about being able to think for others who probably are not thinking clearly for themselves, reducing or eliminating the risk to bystanders, and not becoming engulfed in the fire yourself.
Soul fires can burn white and hot. And when two or more are going at it, there isn’t much room to maneuver. Oddly, when someone is engulfed in a soul fire, they actually may not understand that they need help. Rather than accepting assistance, they actually think that they can extricate themselves from the fire and will push away anyone who tries to offer a hand of assistance. It seems counter to what is normal but this is not a normal circumstance, after all. When a person has lit a bridge burning soul fire, logic and reason are the first things to be thrown out of the window. A rescuer simply may not be wanted for rescue. This make firefighting a soul fire doubly difficult.
I offer several thoughts on how to fight a soul fire atop a burning bridge:
1. Be prepared with prayer and resolve. Don’t give up until it’s over.
2. Patience is key. While it may seem urgent – and in many respects it might be – patience is the best tool to calm the flames.
3. Do not take sides. Now is not the time to declare judgement.
4. Help whoever will take help first. Help everyone else second.
5. It’s about them – not you. Listen. Observe. Collect. Be aware.
6. Use actions first. Use words second.
7. Maintain close but respectable space. Do not over-commit.
8. Keep them talking and thinking. You want them to start reasoning and thinking.
9. Keep focus. The immediate concern is to extinguish the fire. Anything else is of secondary concern.
10. Stay healthy. Fighting a fire can suck the life right out of you.
11. Understand that the accelerant is anger and emotion. Remove the fuel and the fire will go out.
12. Fight by being determined but humble. Very humble.
13. Arguments do not put fires out. Calm discussion and short responses do put fires out.
14. Triage calls for hard decisions. Be strong.
15. Love the victims.
A soul fire firefighter puts himself at great risk. The greatest risk is that of getting caught up in the fire himself. Now the rescuer ends up needing to be rescued. Beware of soul fires – they have the deadly ability to cloud the senses, evoke unnecessary opinions, give rise to anger, and create undesired alliances. The best firefighter is the one who coolly but passionately is intently focused on putting out the fire safely and methodically and pulling the hurting victims from the fire with as little hurt as possible. Any other purposes for fighting a soul fire will lead to even more confusion and entanglements. Remember this – fight the fire but not the hurting people.
Healing can – and hopefully, will – take place later in an environment where the pressure is greatly reduced and where the risk to spiritual life and limb is not as high. Standing in the midst of a raging fire is not the place to be thinking about long-term healing. It doesn’t work that way. When people have ignited, they are overcome by intense waves of emotion and anger. Being engulfed in fire is a triage situation – not a soul-soothing walk on the beach. Fire must be fought – for the sake of those in the fire and for the loved ones watching the fire rage on.
Thank you to those who have the courage and stamina to fight soul fires. Your backbone, commitment, and determination to help those in desperate need is so much appreciated. And needed.
He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind. (Isaiah 40:29-31 MESSAGE)