This weekend, I heard an unexpected sound. My reaction and the reaction of those around me caused me to pause and take stalk of how numb we can grow to the simplest of warnings. Warnings that are in place to keep us safe and yet we ignore them.
Friday for a teacher equals one of two things. One, sweatpants and two to three calm adults who understand what you endured throughout the week so they will willingly indulge a night in with you. Or two, a long nap and a big pep talk in the mirror in order to face others in a crowded place.
This past Friday I went with option number two, sans a nap. I made the risky move because I did not need to drive and the activity did not cost money. Instead my roommate and I wandered down from our adorable downtown apartment above a coffee shop and some stores to walk around the local art crawl right outside. We met up with friends, danced in the street with some break dancers, and grabbed a late dinner with new friends. Exhausted by midnight I slunk into bed knowing the sound of my alarm would cut through the depths of my sleep in less than six hours for a Saturday morning event.
Then, it happened.
At 3:30 a.m. a blasting noise pierced my sleep. Annoyed at what I assumed my alarm, I quickly realized I could not stop the noise. Wandering out of my room, the noise grew louder. A strobing light pulsed through the living room as the sound trumpeted with an agitating rhythm. The fire alarm sounded in my apartment and the hallway outside. My roommate’s room sat dark. I poked my head out into the hallway and saw no one. I convinced myself that the alarm malfunctioned and crawled back into bed.
As I attempted to will myself back to sleep, the alarm continued to sound. Annoyed and unable to go back to sleep, I got up threw on some shoes and a sweatshirt determined to find the idiot I now believed pulled the alarm. I muttered some sort of conglomerate of words to my roommate, now awake, and left. Side note, if the fire alarm goes off, wait for the other people you live with to exit. I now see how unkind my action came across. Go down together.
Making my way to the first floor, I met three other people from our building. We sat in the stairwell as the alarm bellowed wondering what to do. Y’all, the answer to our conundrum, leave the building. Don’t make our mistake. My friend Monica called the non-emergency number as we all convinced ourselves this was a glitch in the system as they had worked on it earlier in the week. She called from the stairwell where the now five us, my roommate included, sat wanting the alarm to just stop.
On the other end of the line, they told her to evacuate immediately as a confirmed fire had been reported. Now, in hindsight this makes perfect sense. But we appeared shocked. All of sudden what we thought to be a drill turned real. The warning we heard for over ten minutes now held real risk.
We rushed out of the building not because the sound warned us but because someone confirmed the warning held danger. After we exited, I saw two fire trucks, an ambulance and billowing smoke from the store two doors down from my apartment entrance.
What I assumed a malfunction or an idiot held real danger. As I sat on the curb attempting to alert people I knew lived in the building and did not come out, I realized how I react the same way to life as I did to this alarm.
In my life I hear or see alarms all the time. Moments to check myself, like leaving my roommate with the fire alarm going off, and I ignore them. I rationalize the warnings away. I convince myself they hold no real danger to me. I create a world where I can use logic to ignore things that may inconvenience me or that I just do not want to face and deal with.
We must face the alarms going off in our lives and in our hearts. And we must address them before they grow to insurmountable issues. If we address issues at the first sound of an alarm we can save ourselves a lot of trouble, hurt and pain.
Whether you feel the small tug in your heart to not gossip or you hear yourself judge another without thinking twice, stop. Heed the warnings. Hear the alarm. Go all the way outside of the building to address the issue. Just getting out of bed and going down to the stairwell is not enough. We must look at the warning signs and alarms going off. We must fully address them.
Take the time and make the space to search through the noise of alarms sounding in your life. Pray for wisdom in where to start. Pray God opens your ears to hear the sounds you grow numb to over time. And then when you hear those alarms, act.
Pray through the issues lying deep in you heart. Seek the word of God for wisdom in addressing things. If you realize you believe something untrue about yourself, replace it with God’s word. Meditate on it. Confide in a trusted friend to walk through things with you and hold you accountable. Open yourself to peel back the layers and find the root of the issue. Dig it up. Throw it away. With Christ prune yourself before the smoke billows out and you are stuck with the easiest path blocked by smoke or flames.
After about forty-five minutes, we went back into our apartment unscathed. The story I heard, a bucket of rags combusted and a small containable fire started. The store and a second floor apartment had some small amounts of smoke damage, but all in all everyone ended up safe. For that, I am eternally thankful. And now, I think my reaction to alarms may contain just a bit more haste.