When the Waldo Canyon Fire broke out on June 23, 2012, I watched with the rest of Colorado Springs the heroic efforts of city firefighters to save life and property. City emergency personnel had prepared for just this scenario over the years, having hosted an exercise drill as recently as last October to practice. In the event that fire prevention failed and a fire broke out in or near the city, these employees were trained in exactly what to do.
Well, a fire did break out, and it threatened the entire city of Colorado Springs. In the grips of a record-setting heat wave, and unruly, unpredictable winds, firefighters fought tenaciously for four days losing only one small camping structure far up the canyon. Before long, they were joined by firefighters from all over the nation who poured into the city. They came to take a stand against what had become an epic battle of man versus nature. Should the fire break across the remaining ridge it would be free to storm into the residential neighborhoods of Colorado Springs unabated. That could not happen. That would not happen…
Despite the fact that the city had braced itself for the absolute worst, no one really believed the absolute worst would actually come – except that one guy. You know, he’s the guy that’s quoted during every natural disaster interview saying, “It’s not a matter of if, but when…” That guy knew we would face the “dragon” one day. Well, the dragon showed up on the afternoon of June 26th. He roared down the Front Range of the Rockies and into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood spitting flames and wrecking havoc wherever he went. By the time it was all over, the dragon consumed more than 18,000 acres of forestland and 346 homes without even breaking a sweat.
Forget fire prevention, the only thing on anyone’s mind from Day 4 on was limiting the dragon’s effect. Every news station, radio program, and online broadcast talked about fire mitigation. Fire mitigation? “Hey, I just moved here from Oregon,” I wanted to say, “what on earth is fire mitigation?” I had to look it up. Mitigation is firefighter lingo for “limiting the potential impact of a threat” – in this case the threat of fire.
So, tell me, how does one mitigate a monster?
In firefighting, mitigation is simple – it has two components: 1) expand the defensible space around a home, and 2) remove anything that would feed the fire. I’m no fire expert, but it seems like common sense to me. Expand the defensible space by removing anything that could fuel the fire. Dead leaves, underbrush, and overgrown tree limbs? Get rid of them. Patio furniture cushions, stacks of firewood, and fabric awnings? Gone, if you want to save your house.
Fire mitigation is the perfect metaphor for how to fight Satan’s attacks against us. In his effort to destroy all the good God has developed in us, Satan roars into our lives snorting and spewing the fire of temptation everywhere. Instead of standing up authoritatively to this menacing “Dragon,” we cower. We hide from him in fear. In a panic we run under a bush thinking we’ll be safe, but with one blast of his nostrils, our protection will be incinerated instantly.
We need more than a hiding place to mitigate Satan’s influence in our lives; we need an emergency plan, and we need one now!
1. Create Defensible Space
Too bad King David didn’t have defensible space around his heart when he moseyed out for his midnight stroll along the roofline of the palace in 2 Samuel, Chapter 11. He wouldn’t have encountered the combustible fuel that was Bathsheba if he had. Maintaining defensible space could have saved him from adultery, lying, the murder of one of his most valiant soldiers, and his offense against a holy God.
Creating defensible space in an area of temptation will look different for each person. Here are some suggestions I gleaned from David’s story that I am trying to add to my own defensible space area to make it larger:
- Stay in my domain unless specifically called out by God – (2 Samuel 11:1)
- Stay involved in healthy, meaningful pursuits – (2 Samuel 11:2)
- Don’t drag others into my temptation – (2 Samuel 11:3)
- Don’t isolate myself – (2 Samuel 11:1)
- Beware of late night temptations – (2 Samuel 11:2)
2. Remove Anything that Will Fuel the Fire
Anything that takes you out of your calling, infringes on your calling, or feeds what opposes your calling, has got to go.
Get rid of it!
You may need to go through your house and purge it of alcohol, addictive medications, chocolate, ice cream, credit cards, pornographic romance novels, X-rated computer games, or cell phones with Internet hook-up. I don’t know what tempts you, but I do know what tempts me and if it’s tormenting me, I will get rid of it.
One of my favorite scenes from the movie, “Fireproof,” is when Kirk Cameron’s character takes a baseball bat to his computer and smashes it to bits. The computer has so tormented him with pornography, that it destroyed his marriage. In a valiant effort to rid himself of pornography’s snare once and for all, he destroys the conduit through which it has come.
Men, if your computer is leading you into sin, pull the plug. Get rid of it, or get an Internet filter to block pornography (such as Sterling Communications – http://www.sterling.net), or sign up with a friend to monitor your browsing habits (such as Covenant Eyes – http://www.covenanteyes.com). There are plenty of things you can do to cut off the fuel source to your temptations.
Women, if Facebook is leading you into unhealthy attachments with others beside your spouse, delete your account. If chick flicks are drawing your heart into unhealthy fantasies, delete them from your television line-up, or throw out your DVDs. If you are comforting yourself through shopping or gambling, then remove the fuel source; cut up your credit cards.
Proactive Emergency Plan
In some ways it’s easier to limit things that tempt us by just hacking them out of our lives. That’s one side of the firefight, but unless we engage our spirits in something positive, we will eventually slide back into old patterns of behavior and/or sin. After Kirk Cameron’s character destroys his computer in “Fireproof,” he metaphorically replaces the ugliness of pornography with the beauty of his love for his wife. In the place where his computer once sat, he leaves a bouquet of roses for his wife with a note that acknowledges his struggle, yet honors his love for her.
In the same way, I have to replace the ugliness of sin’s influence in my life with a positive thought process that will lead me out of the temptation, while, at the same time, fortify me for future onslaughts. Colossians, Chapter three is my resource of choice when the Dragon comes calling at my door. There I find the battle plan for my attack on the fuels combusting around me, and there I find the help I need to mitigate his influence in my life.
Here are some questions I use to help create defensible space in my life:
- What fuels am I allowing to pile up around my “house”?
- What am I feeding to my spirit?
- How am I creating defensible space in my life?
- Am I clearing out the dead “trees and underbrush” of my life? (Colossians 3:5-9 names some of those bushes: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, idolatry, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, and lying)
Eventually temptation will come to all of us. “Fire prevention” will not be enough to forestall temptation’s fury forever. One day it will ignite, one day it will combust all around us, and one day it will land us right in the middle of “disaster man’s” prophecy.
“It’s not a matter of if, but when…”
The really good news about temptation, however, is that God always provides a way of escape for us if we truly want one. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you will be able to endure it.”
Romans 12:9b also tells me what to do when I’m clouded by temptation’s smoky haze: “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”
So how exactly do we mitigate a monster?
- Create defensible space in our lives
- Clear dead debris from our lives
- Look for an escape from temptation and take it
- Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good
Will we be ready when the firestorm of temptation rampages over the ridge and storms into our lives?
I intend to be, so I’m working on my emergency plan right now even as we speak!
© Copyright, 2012 by Donna Tallman.