When I first moved to Colorado, I occupied an apartment in a large complex. It was lovely - spacious rooms, well-tended grounds with lots of trees and flowers, and a walking trail leading into a beautiful scenic park with magnificent views near the top of its hilly terrain. Newly retired, I felt like I was on vacation every day when I walked the sunny trails.
But all was not bliss in the neighborhood, as I soon found out. In a second floor apartment above me lived an aging couple named Helen and Harley. Helen was frail and unsteady on her feet. She took a fall every week and Harley would dial 911.
I’d be sitting on my patio, lost in the pages of a book, when the sudden scream of a fire truck shattered the air around me. The screaming engine would pull up in front of my apartment and two firemen would jump out and dash upstairs. They were soon followed by paramedics, who would reappear bearing Helen on a stretcher. It was rough going for them because Helen was heavy and one would have to walk backwards down the stairs. Soon I began to feel sorry for these firefighters who must be tiring of the same routine. Something needed to be done, and I was the obvious one to do it since everyone else in the building had a full-time job.
I rang their bell and offered my services. “I’m home all day with loads of free time,” I volunteered. “Is there anything I can do to help? Make beds, fix meals, fetch the mail, run errands - whatever you find difficult. I know about Helen’s hip replacement and I can do these things until she gets stronger.”
“Oh, no,” said Harley, aghast at my offer. “We don’t need help. We can do the housework. And going for the mail? That’s how I get my exercise. I’m supposed to take Helen for a walk every day as well, but she isn‘t always up to going.”
“Well, I could walk with her. No problem! I walk every day myself.”
“No, she has plenty of help from me,” Harley replied, with a firm set to his jaw. I looked over at Helen and she was giving him a hopeless, “is that so?” kind of look.
I tried another line. “Why don’t you two move to a first floor apartment? I could help you pack. It would make it easier on the paramedics if Helen took another fall.”
I met with further resistance. “We feel safer up here. We don’t want to live on the first floor. But it’s nice of you to offer.” His face was set in a firm, hard line so I went back to my apartment, feeling frustrated and troubled.
Many folks feel the same about God when you try to witness your faith. They don’t want your help. They’d rather be free to do it their way, and they rightly fear that God may have something else in mind.
I’ve learned that it takes courage to be a witness for Christ because we’re almost sure to meet with resistance of some kind - ridicule, indignation, or downright anger that we‘d dare to try and take away their independence. They want nothing to do with God. There’s as much fear here as they have of the devil.
After September 11, firefighters received some overdue recognition as the heroes they are. But, hey, isn’t every Evangelical Christian a firefighter also? Think about it! We’re trying to stop the fires of hell from burning too brightly by “snatching others from the fire”, as St. Jude so aptly put it. It’s an uphill battle all the way, with Satan stoking his fires with the limbs of the fallen.
I’m truly sorry that I wasn’t able to help to Helen and Harley who spent their last days in a nursing home. But I would have felt worse if I hadn’t tried. That’s all the Lord expects of us, after all. Like the heroic firefighters, we need to go forward when we see a need and do our best to save those in trouble. The Lord will do the rest. He asks only for willing hands and hearts to help get the job done.
“Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear… (Jude 22, 23 NIV
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