Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). Last Saturday we posted Chapter 18: Jesus And Anger. Love Like Jesus is due to be published later this year.
“The Grange”, as the locals called it, was a large retail store and warehouse that sold agricultural supplies on South Pacific Highway in Medford, Oregon. It was on fire. Right around 3 AM, Bob Paulson and two of his crewmates dragged a hose line through an open bay door and disappeared into the thick black smoke. Because of that smoke they could see only a few feet in front of them. So they were feeling their way, peering through the darkness, looking for any sign of light from the flames that waited for them inside. Everything was typical of a commercial structure fire so far, with one exception, the flames they were looking for couldn’t be found. They could feel the heat, there was dense smoke, but they couldn’t locate the source.
Because he had only been on the department one year, it was Bob’s job to operate the nozzle. He was first through the door and he would be the last one out. He and two other firefighters dragged the two-and-one-half-inch diameter hoseline along a path that resembled the letter J. After working their way 150 feet deep into the structure, and still finding no flames, they decided to retreat back outside. In a situation such as this, firefighters are trained to follow the hose back out of the building, but Bob thought he could take a shortcut across the hook of the J. So he dropped the nozzle, and headed for what he thought was the way out. He didn’t make it far. After a few moments, he bumped into a wall. “Not good,” he thought to himself. He turned around and headed back in the general direction of the hose line, but somehow he missed it.
“By now I was totally disoriented,” Bob said. “I had no idea which way to go.”
He felt his way along until he found a large roll-up door, but it had a padlock on it. It was around this time the low-air warning-bell started ringing on his breathing apparatus.
“So my low-air bell’s going off, and the roll-up doors had these little narrow 4″ x 12″ windows in them,” Bob said. “I’m looking through them to the outside, but I can’t see anybody.”
Then he found another roll-up door next to the first one, but it too was padlocked. Then he found a third roll-up door, but that one was padlocked also. He thought about trying to break one of the windows so he could stick his air hose out into the relatively clean air. But he couldn’t find anything to use to break the glass. Anyway, he couldn’t stand the thought of just standing there, with his air hose out the window, waiting for the fire to consume him.
It was all too much. He could feel the panic start to rise inside. Then, behind him, he just barely made out the sound of someone else’s low air warning bell, off in the distance. Because his own bell was ringing so loudly, it was difficult to tell where the sound of the other bell was coming from.
He thought about trying to follow that sound, that other bell. But if he stayed where he was, at least he had a window. Maybe someone would walk by and see him. On the other hand, even if someone did walk by and see him, they might not be able to force the door before he ran out of air. And as soon as he runs out of air, he’s dead. But, if he left the bay door, he was giving up his one point of reference and venturing into the unknown. All he knew about moving toward the interior was it would be hotter, and blacker, than where he was now.
In the end, he decided to take a chance, and follow the sound of the bell.
In Bob’s own words, “Through the Lord’s guidance, no brilliance of my own, I came walking out [of the building], about fifteen feet behind Finnegan.” (Finnegan was Bob’s crewmate)1
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus prayed for the people he loved. He prayed for Peter to be delivered from Satan, he prayed for his friend Lazarus’ resurrection, he prayed while he hung on the cross for those who put him there, he prayed for his disciples. (Luke 22:31-32, John 11:41-42, Luke 23:34, John 17:6-19)
He even prayed for those who would believe because of his disciples, which means he prayed for you, and he prayed for me. (John 17:20-23)
Jesus loved people by praying for them.
The Curious Case of Edna Hahnsdorf
I don’t know about you, but there are times when I become discouraged in prayer. It just feels like I’ve been praying for something forever, without results. Or it feels like I’m praying to an imaginary friend. Or it feels like my prayers aren’t going anywhere, as if the wings of my prayers have been clipped somehow and they aren’t even getting off the ground. When you feel this way you might be tempted to think prayer is just a waste of time, but before you make up your mind, you might want to consider the last part of Bob Paulson’s nearly fatal fire story.
At the end of my interview with Bob, he said, “Three days after the fire I saw my aunt Edna, Edna Hahnsdorf, and she asked, ‘Where were you on . . .?’ and she named the date of the Grange Co-op fire. ‘Because the Lord woke me up at three in the morning on that day, and said: ‘Pray for Bob.’ After praying for you about a half hour, I thought, ‘OK, whatever it was is OK,’ and I went back to sleep.”
And that was the time, and the date, when, as Bob puts it, “I was reasonably sure I was going to die.”
Curiously, Bob describes his aunt as, “One of my lesser favorite people in the world. It was just her personality,” Bob says. “She was kind of a pushy self-centered gal.”
Why Did Jesus Pray?
It’s easy to see why Edna prayed. She knew her nephew Bob was a firefighter and that he could find himself in harm’s way. And the night Bob was lost in the fire she was somehow prompted by God’s Holy Spirit to pray for the nephew she loved. But why did Jesus pray? Have you ever wondered?
Why would Jesus, God incarnate Himself, why would He ever pray? I mean, Jesus is the Son of God. He’s the Alpha and the Omega.
But He still prayed.
Love – And Something Surprising
Part of the answer is Jesus was communicating with the One he loved more than any other. The One with whom he had a relationship from the beginning of eternity. And any good relationship requires good communication. But there’s another reason. Jesus also prayed because He could do nothing without his Father. And He said so.
Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son said, “I can do nothing on my own.” (John 5:30) Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Savior of the world said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord.” (John 5:19) And he also said, “. . . the Father who dwells in me does his works.” (John 14:10)
Think about that attitude for a minute. And then think about your own attitude. Jesus Christ lived life in an attitude of dependency on our Father. I don’t know about you, but for most of my life, I lived in an attitude of self-sufficiency.
And an attitude of self-sufficiency encourages a life without prayer.
How To Love Like Jesus
Bob’s story makes me wonder what might have happened had his aunt Edna ignored the Holy Spirit’s promptings and rolled over and gone back to sleep — without praying. I wonder if Bob would have made it. And that makes me wonder about my own prayers. Who might be saved, and who might perish, depending on whether or not I’m responding to the promptings of God’s Holy Spirit? And how might I be held accountable, for ignoring those promptings?
Bob’s story also makes me wonder why God chose Edna Hahnsdorf in the first place. From Bob’s perspective at least, she was pushy and self-centered. Not the kind of Christlike person I would have picked to intercede for my friend Bob. I’d have looked for a saint. God chose someone who seemed to be obnoxious. That surprises me. And it encourages me too because I think to myself, “I’m obnoxious — maybe God will use me!” And maybe He’ll use you. But for Him to do so, you have to pray, for the ones you love.
So pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to pray.
Pray even if it interrupts your sleep, at 3 AM.
Pray for those you love because Jesus prayed for those he loved.
To love like Jesus, pray like Jesus.
Your prayers make a difference – just ask Bob Paulson.
- Interview with Medford Fire Captain Bob Paulson, August 24, 2013
Further study will be rewarded. Read John 17:6-26 to see how Jesus prayed for his disciples and how he prayed for you and for me.
The Grange Co-op Fire:
- Firefighter Bennington, commenting on the fire’s size and intensity, said, “If God himself told me to go back in there, I wouldn’t have gone.”
- After they changed air bottles, Bob Paulson’s crewmate Frank Finnegan wanted to go back inside. Bob said, “Nnnnnn, no. I don’t want to. I almost died in there. I’m more interested in staying out here right now.” Finnegan understood, so they took a seat outside. Within ten minutes there was a roof collapse.
- After the roof collapse, Finnegan and Paulson entered back into the building where they encountered Battalion Chief Ryan Johnson. He was ordering all fire personnel to evacuate. Finnegan asked for one more minute to fight the fire. The Batt Chief gave him three. Finnegan and Paulson found the fire and extinguished it. The Grange Co-op still stands today.
Image of firefighters via Ross Beckley – Creative Commons