At nearly 2:00 am—just an hour or so after the 4th of July yahoos had finished firing off their last bottle rocket—my daughter came in our room in distress. At that moment, I was dreaming I was at the grocery store and every item I picked off the store shelf to put in my cart was falling through unseen holes in my cart and onto the floor, so not a bad dream to interrupt.
“There’s a noise in my room!” she cried. I followed her to her room and saw that the smoke alarm just inside her door was going off in bursts of violent sound every few minutes.
“I think it’s just telling us that the battery is about to go out,” I told her, groggily. I climbed on a chair trying to remember when we’re supposed to change the batteries in the smoke alarm: Labor Day? Memorial Day? Well, this one was getting changed on the 4th (or rather the 5th) of July.
I saw that the battery required to operate this smoke alarm was the obnoxious 9-volt. I looked in the plastic shoebox where we keep batteries and saw enough AA and AAA batteries to choke several horses but no 9-volts.
I climbed back up on the chair to see if I could just remove the weak battery and go back to sleep and save this home improvement project for another day. But that wasn’t an option. I took out the battery but the phantom chirping continued. I started to pull the smoke alarm from the ceiling but this only revealed a tangle of red and white wires attaching the smoke alarm to the house. I felt like I was in an episode of MacGyver, attempting to choose which wire to cut to diffuse a bomb.
I must have been thinking those exact thoughts when my daughter brought me back to reality. “Mom, what am I going to do? I can’t sleep in here.” I took her to her brothers’ room where we settled her on a mattress on the floor. The chirping was still persistent but distant enough for her to sleep.
Once back in my room, I remembered a smoke alarm chirping situation from years ago. We had been in our current house for a few months when the smoke alarm chirping began. We checked all the smoke alarms—all of them nearly brand new—and they were fine, but the chirping continued. It seemed to echo in different parts of the house. Was it coming from the upstairs linen closet? Or maybe the hallway? Now you could hear it on the stairs!
After almost a week of searching, we finally found the culprit. We had renovated the basement, adding a drop ceiling to what was once an unfinished space. The workers had built the new ceiling right on top of an old smoke alarm attached to a wooden beam from the existing ceiling. The discovery and removal of the smoke alarm was a huge victory for our entire household. Our home had been exorcised!
Smoke alarms can be very effective. The sound is not meant to soothe. It’s meant to create alarm and a sense of urgency. Even when there is no reason for alarm, they can make you feel panic and a desire to flee. It’s not a peaceful feeling.
While effective, it’s not what I normally want to experience in my home. What I really want is peace. But where does that peace come from? If it only comes from everyone always getting along and everything turning out perfectly—every meal, report card, family game night—then peace will always allude me.
Finding peace is a choice. It’s not something the world can give you. Instead, it’s something you must find by letting go of fear and worry and giving those things that alarm you to Someone big enough to carry them for you.
John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”