As a retired fire chief with a twenty plus year career on a Chicago-suburban fire department, I’m always drawn to firefighting stories. This past week in Fresno, California firefighters were battling what appeared to be a routine fire. However, in the matter of seconds, it quickly turned into an unexpected—potentially deadly—situation (watch this one minute+ graphic video). http://www.fresnobee.com/2015/04/02/4458972/fresno-fire-captain-is-stable.html?rh=1
Pete Dern, a veteran Fire Captain, husband, and dad was in the process of ventilating a roof when it partially collapsed. He fell through the roof and was immediately engulfed in a massive amount of fire. As I watched the video, and as I envisioned this trapped firefighter, a few thoughts came to mind:
- Troubles– Fighting fires includes experiencing unexpected troubles.
- Training– Captain Dern was performing the necessary fire ground operation of ventilation which releases smoke and fire and enables the engine company to locate-confine-and extinguish the fire.
- Equipment– Captain Dern had the proper firefighting tools, he was wearing his SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus), and he was fully encapsulated in his fire turnout gear.
- Experience– when unexpected tragedy struck, Captain Dern was thrust into an environment that could not support life. Thankfully, the experienced Fire Captain kept his cool.
- Team– It took fellow firefighters 1-2 minutes to rip apart a double overhead garage door and rescue their fallen firefighter. Left on his own, Captain Dern would not have survived.
Tragically, he received burns over 65-75% of his body. Currently he is in critical but stable condition. Doctors are saying they are optimistic that Captain Dern will survive (after months of healing and multiple surgeries).
Okay, you may be wondering; how does this tragic fire ground incident relate to marriage?
Consider the above components that enabled Captain Dern to survive as I relate them to marriage.
- Troubles– Fighting fires includes experiencing unexpected troubles—similarly, the bible says; “those who marry will experience trouble in this life” (1 Cor.7:28). Throughout 38+ years of marriage anne+i have experienced marriage troubles. Every husband, wife, and couple will experience troubles. The question is; how prepared are you for marital troubles when they knock at your door? Don’t be naive, there is an enemy of marriage whose primary mission is to lie, steal, kill, and destroy.
- Training– have you received marital training? Similar to firefighters, do you strategically invest the necessary time, energy, and resources into marriage training? For example, are you in a marriage focused small group? When was the last time you invested in a marriage gathering or marriage tune-up? Our experience is couples who take marriage training seriously not only survive—they thrive when troubles surface. For couples who are prepared for marriage troubles, what initially appear to be obstacles—can often become opportunities.
- Equipment– Are you equipped for when unexpected troubles surface in your marriage? For example, does your marriage “protective equipment” include regular prayer as you both I.O.T.L. (inquire of the Lord) and make decisions in unity? Do you understand the importance of maximizing the full armor of God? (Ephesians 6). Firefighters understand each other’s functions, gifts, and temperaments. Do you know your spouse’s temperament, spiritual gifts, and style of relating? Do you function together as a team? Are you advancing in intimacy with God and your spouse in proactive rather than reactive ways? Do you have a marriage-faith-file where you record, review, and learn from marital experiences (both positive and negative)?
- Experience– First, whether you’ve been married 1-10-20-30-40-or more years, what have you learned individually and as a couple as far as dealing with marital troubles? Second, who are you sharing your marriage experiences with? Third, do you have experienced marriage mentors who, when marriage troubles occur, have shown they’ve been able to keep their cool? What are some things that you’ve learned from these experienced couples?
- Team– who is on your marriage team—what are their names? Do you have couples in your life who make marriage a top life priority? Are you a part of a local church that teaches, trains, and equips men and women about marriage—a community of faith that invests time and resources to create a positive, life-giving, marriage culture? Does your marriage team include a specific person, couple, counselor, pastor you can contact if a marriage crisis strikes?
Are you up for a REAL LIFE marriage challenge?
An old firehouse slogan is; after all is said and done, often much is said, and little is done. Plan a date (maybe a weekend getaway) with your spouse. Focus on reviewing your marriage—specifically where you are at as far as marriage troubles, training, equipment, experience, and a team. Then develop one goal and one action plan for each of these areas.
As an advanced REAL LIFE challenge, schedule time together as a couple and pray for marriages—for yours and others. Pray God ignites a marriage reformation where husbands and wives return to His original marriage design of selfless-sacrifice and servanthood. Pray couples invest whatever it takes into advancing in intimacy with God and their spouse.
Lastly, say a prayer for Captain Dern, his bride, and family—for all firefighters who are willing to give up their lives in the line of duty. Thank God for people in your life who model selfless-sacrifice.
As I stop and think about selfless-sacrifice … I’m reminded of Jesus. And how He chose to give up His life for me … and for you.