Firefighter Burn-Out: The Decay Phase
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:31
As one travels along the path of life, we can become weary from the issues of life. Our fiery passion that we all began with is often snuffed out by negativity, conflicts, tribulations, and the diminishing number of passionate firefighters around us.
What can we do to reignite the fire in our lives?
Our fire that has entered decay phase has consumed all of the available oxygen around us and begins to darken and diminish but remains hot. This is a description of our hearts when we begin to burn-out. Our fire isn’t lacking fuel but merely the air to support its growth until someone comes along and opens a door, a window breaks, or ventilation is accomplished and our fire will grow to even bigger than before.
In our lives as we passionately pursue our objectives the very air we need for growth (encouragement from others) can be consumed by the darkness of bitterness (the negativity of others). Negativity can consume our passion and make us believe that there is no hope in reignition. But then, someone recognizes the potential within us. They see a fuel rich environment! And they provide the encouragement that gives our fire the breath of fresh air that was so desperately needed.
A fire needs fuel, heat, air, and the uninterrupted chemical chain reaction to continue to burn. So as we pursue our calling to love, serve, and lead others let us remember the following:
1) Fuel-To continue on our journey we need fuel to keep burning. Those who are the most passionate can and will experience burn-out without replenishing their fuel. This can be prevented by surrounding ourselves with likeminded individuals who can provide guidance.
2) Heat-A fire must continually heat the fuel to pyrolize the material producing the combustible vapors necessary to support flaming combustion. Once we receive guidance from our fuel we can provide heat (positive reinforcement) by training, going to conferences, changing our environment (changing our station assignment), and developing disciplines that keep us burning with passion. These disciplines are prayer, study, teaching, service, and continuous improvement.
3) Air-Without air our fires will go out. This can be accomplished by developing relationships with encouraging individuals who seek out the best in us no matter what we are going through. They always seem to have the right words, at the right time, and they check on us periodically. This is a gift from God to have friends like these. Remember to thank Him daily for encouragement from His word, from others, and for the opportunity to provide encouragement to others.
4) Uninterrupted chemical chain reaction- This where we as firefighters behave differently. Everyone needs an interruption every now and then. The fire service is NOT everything to us, it is a way of life, and our calling but one day we will retire. What then? Is our identity so deeply intertwined with our title that we will lose all hope once we lay down our helmets? NO! The fire service is a part of us but we need time away to refocus, recharge, and rest in God’s peace.
Remember He gave us six days for labor and one day for rest. This was done for our benefit. Practice this by taking mini-vacations from the fire service and we will find that we are renewed and burning with even more intensity for the calling we are blessed with.
As Ray McCormack says “Keep Fire in your life.” I pray that we all keep God’s Holy Fire burning within us and that is a fire no one can ever extinguish.