Courage, Darkness, and a Relentless Love That Saved a Firefighter

Jason SautelBy Jason Sautel9 Minutes


Excerpt Adapted from The Rescuer: One Firefighter’s Story of Courage, Darkness, and the Relentless Love That Saved Him by Jason Sautel with D. R. Jacobsen


Kristie and I had been dating for about a month. What Kristie was teaching me, and what I was hearing at the little church we started going to together, was beginning to make sense. In some ways it was just different words for what I already knew from experience. The messed-up, broken-down world I knew so well was fallen. Sinful. And the times of peace, the genuine love, was God. I got it.

The world around me was still full of sadness, but it just didn’t seem so dark anymore. My past was full of pain. That would never change. But it didn’t feel like it defined me anymore, or like it ever could again. I didn’t hear a heavenly choir. Honestly, I didn’t even feel anything different. All I knew was that nearly dying in that high-rise was a turning point. So I prayed.

God, it’s me. Sautel. I almost died today, which I guess you already know. But if I’d died before knowing Jesus . . . I can’t imagine. I can’t let that happen. God, thanks for chasing me all these years.

That was it. I noted the time of life: 6:37 a.m. in OFD Station 11 on the west side of Oakland.

When I told Kristie, it was no big deal. Like she’d already guessed. Maybe she had.

Kristie hadn’t saved me. It wasn’t like that. I knew God had done all the saving. She had just shown me it was possible. That being saved could happen to anyone, even a guy as screwed up as me. I was still a guy who rescued people, shift after shift after shift. That hadn’t changed. But the rescuer had been rescued.

One night we got back to the firehouse and sat down for a meal of cold steaks and wilted Caesar salad. Three hours before it had been fresh, but no sooner had we sat down then dispatch called us to a fire. Now, with our cold dinner in front of us, I was jamming up Jimmy, who had pulled two hundred feet of hose line even though Rog had parked the engine only twenty feet from the fire.

“Bro, I spent more time knocking the kinks out of that hose pull of yours than I spent in the house fighting fire with you!”

Cappy and Rog were laughing. This was the kind of banter we lived for.

“Better to have too much than come up short!” retorted Jimmy. “Kinda the story of your life, right?”

“C’mon, Seed,” Jimmy egged me on. “Ball’s in your court. Fire back!”

I just smiled and chowed down on my bowl of withered salad and soggy croutons.

“Cappy,” asked Jimmy, “what’s wrong with our Demon Seed? I know silence can be a great comeback, but he never uses that tactic!”

I took a few more bites, then finally hopped back in. “Bro, you’re right. Silence can be a very effective tactic, especially against you when you know you screwed up on a fire. Losers hate the silent treatment. I get it.”

Cappy raised his eyebrows. He was loving it.

“And bro,” I continued, “me sitting here quiet gives you time to reflect on how lame your hose move was. But as much as that brings a smile to my face, that’s not why I’m doing it.”

Cappy nudged Rog. He lived and breathed tactics and could tell I was about to open up the bomb bay doors and drop something big right on Jimmy’s plate. But not even Cappy knew what was coming.

“You ever seen a mustard seed?” I asked, holding the tip of my right thumb right next to the tip of my forefinger. “I was the Demon Seed, but something as small as a mustard seed can change even the most hard-core of men. The guy you’re looking at isn’t the same one you’ve been working with all these years. I’ve been equipped with a whole new set of ammunition to drop on you, so check this—I’m not sitting here quietly because I want you to reflect on your stupid move of pulling ten times the hose we needed.”

The three guys were just gaping at me. Nuke time.

“Jimmy, I’m sitting here quietly because I was remembering a Bible verse I heard in church last week with Kristie. ‘Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.’”.

For the first time in my memory, Cappy lost his cool. He coughed an actual piece of steak from his mouth. It landed on the table with a small wet sound. After a long second, he cleared his throat and said, “Well damn, but if I ever needed proof that miracles can happen . . .” He shrugged, then finished his thought, “Now I got my proof.”

Jimmy just shook his head and gave a small smile. It was a lot for him to process, but he’d come around.

And Rog? He was grinning fit to split his cheeks, like he’d just seen a nonbreathing victim unexpectedly start sucking down air. He didn’t say a word—just stuck his fist across the table and bumped mine. He probably could’ve cited the chapter and verse for what I’d just thrown at Jimmy, but dispatch let us know that the world outside the firehouse needed us again.

“Ma’am, what’s burning and where are you?”

We all listened.

“The house next door to me. I’m at 1052 Thirty-Fifth Street. Hurry!”

We would. We did. I wolfed one more bite of stale salad and washed it down with room-temperature soda. Less than a minute later, the four of us were rolling down the street on the engine. I spun and stood to catch a view and saw the column of smoke a few blocks away. Jimmy was standing too. We shared a look.

“I love this job!” I yelled.

Taken from The Rescuer: One Firefighter’s Story of Courage, Darkness, and the Relentless Love That Saved Him by Jason Sautel. Copyright © 2020 by Jason Sautel. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.

Order your copy of The Rescuer: One Firefighter’s Story of Courage, Darkness, and the Relentless Love That Saved Him by Jason Sautel with D. R. Jacobsen