It was pitch black in my hotel room. And I was in that space between asleep and awake.
Do you know the place I’m talking about?
Where you can certainly hear things, but you aren’t sure whether they’re really happening or you’re in the middle of a dream?
It was a very faint sound.
Like an alarm clock.
And it wouldn’t stop.
In my sleep, I wanted it to stop, but I couldn’t do anything to make that happen.
Finally, I “came to” and sat up in bed, completely disoriented.
I peeled the sleep mask off my eyes and took the ear plugs out of my ears. (Yes, I’m a hot, high-maintenance mess when it’s time for sleep.)
And then I heard it clearly for the first time.
It was the hotel fire alarm!
Giving out it’s warning signal again and again and again.
So I jumped out of bed and peeked out the window of my first floor room.
What I saw startled me.
No less than 100 people standing outside. Most of them in jammies or sweats. Most of them with overnight bags in their hands. Many of them on their phones.
How long had the alarm been buzzing?
What was going on?
Was I the last person in the hotel?
Was I about to be consumed by fire?
(Yes, I realized later that I could have easily opened the window to my first floor room and graciously exited the building without a scratch in any circumstance, but having been awoken from sound sleep in the middle of the night, my sharpest tools in the shed were still warming up.)
I looked at my phone.
It was 4:00 a.m.
Two hours before I had to get up for the last day of the writer’s conference I was attending.
And I remember thinking:
I need to do something…
Standing there in my boy shorts and cami, though, I couldn’t decide whether I should run as fast as possible out of the hotel in an effort to save my life from the flames of fire, or if I should take the time to put on some decent clothes so as not to embarrass myself or offend someone else.
So I stuck my head out into the hall and saw the last few guests from my floor, calmly walking to the nearest exit, telling me it was a false alarm. Nonetheless, the fire department was asking us to evacuate so they could check the entire building before shutting the alarm off.
I felt cheated.
But whew. There was time to change clothes.
Because the thought of running outside in my current attire was too much to bear. So I grabbed some lounge pants and a t-shirt, threw my basic toiletries, make up, and an outfit into my bag, grabbed my phone and computer, and walked outside, where I sat on the curb for about 30 minutes.
And I thought about life while I sat there.
Because life is filled with warning signs, isn’t it?
Sometimes we see and heed them right away.
Sometimes we see them, but don’t understand what they mean.
Sometimes we miss them altogether.
We see them. And we choose to ignore them.
Because I’d be lying if I told you the thought didn’t cross my mind to crawl back into bed, pull the sleep mask back over my eyes, and stuff my ear plugs back into my ears. After all, I was prepared to sleep in the midst of chaos. Yet my “rule-following” spirit took over. And I chose safety over sleep. A smart thing to do even in the face of news from an informant that this was a false alarm.
In that moment, I chose to heed the warning signs.
But in so many other moments, I’ve turned a blind eye.
That voice in my head whispering, “don’t say that in an email response.” Yet I say it anyway.
That friend advising me I should think twice before I take on an enormous responsibility. Yet I take it on anyway.
That feeling in the pit of my stomach that I should draw a boundary in a relationship. Yet, I let the relationship invade areas of my life where I shouldn’t.
Fortunately, I’ve lived to tell about it. But most often, I live to regret those decisions made against the grain of the warning signs.
So when you’re faced with something that may be a warning sign. Listen up. Don’t ignore it. Instead, lift it up in prayer. And see what God has to say about it. Because God will help you sort it out.
Are you facing a warning sign today?