Earlier this week, a visitor set off the alarm at the museum where I work. This was probably not intentional — although hello, dear visitor, we shouldn’t just open random armed doors in public galleries, now should we? Our alarm is a startling horn blaring, followed by flashing lights. And if an employee doesn’t re-set it within a very short time frame, the police are called. This alarm’s bark, frankly, is worse than its bite. But it was still scary for me, and for our other staff members too.
From the second the alarm went off until the second we realized it was false, panic coursed through my veins.
I’m no stranger to false alarms. I’ve recently become enamored with (gluten be damned) baking my own baguettes. The oven has to be hot-hot-hot and sometimes our crazy-sensitive smoke alarm can’t keep quiet. I know it’s false, but Mr. S. doesn’t. So into the kitchen he races, and yes everything is fine, and no, I didn’t catch myself on fire. But it’s good that he asks. Because not every alarm is a false one.
Less casual false alarms take place too. Just a few months before my wedding, I had the most awful cold-cough-ish thing of my life. After a few weeks of Sudafed and cough syrup, I saw a handful of doctors. And no one could figure it out. Thinking it was pneumonia, one doctor ordered a chest x-ray. No sweat, right? Wrong. The technician noticed a blemish on the x-ray: what appeared to be a tumor. On my spine. To see if it was a tumor, and what kind of tumor it might be, a CT scan was ordered.
Except I couldn’t get a scan appointment for a week.
A week! One of the longest weeks of my life. Friends, I crafted the most ridiculous what-if scenarios in my head, everything from how this imaginary cancer might impact my wedding to how I would include Mr. S. in my will if we weren’t married yet and where would I get treatment and all kinds of not realistic ideas. Embarrassingly ridiculous. I went on a WebMD rampage and investigated different cancers and treatment plans and how I would tackle it and blah blah blah.
To my great joy and beyond-pleasant surprise, it turned out to be absolutely nothing (praise God). A 100% false alarm. But I panicked until I’d heard the verdict.
With most false alarms, friends, until we realize it’s false, we are rightfully scared.
But I wonder, today, if those few seconds between alarm and false alarm present a place where we can put our faith into action. What would life look like if, instead of resorting to panic and fear and anxiety, we put our trust in Christ in these moments? Trusting no matter what, no matter if the alarm turns out to be false or real? What if we took deep breaths instead of shallow ones? What if we acknowledged fear for fear’s sake and then put the what-ifs in hands far more capable than ours? Maybe we could close our eyes and count to ten and whisper a little prayer and tip-toe forward?
I’m encountering a few alarms — hopefully false ones — this week with people I love dearly. A phone date later this week. A cryptic let’s-chat-soon email. An unreturned voicemail. I’ve got this ridiculous imagination that rocks the what-if game. And so I’m working on trust and quiet and peace, even when the alarm blares.
Easier said than done. I know. But worth a try, yes?