Many years ago, when Nancy and I lived in San Antonio, we heard a home siren ripping through the night stillness. I turned to Nancy on the couch next to me, and we waited, thinking perhaps the occupants had entered the house and forgotten to disarm it. We’d done that ourselves a few times since moving in. But as the moments passed, and the siren continued wailing across the neighborhood, we realized this time things were different.
“Maybe it’s a break-in,” Nancy suggested.
More from curiosity than bravado, I went outside to get a better look. Then I saw our neighbor working under the hood of his car.
“Hey, John,” I called above the noise.
He poked his head from under the hood and smiled at me.
Suddenly feeling a little awkward because of my concern over the alarm while John (who lived in the neighborhood nearly ten years) seemed to not hear it, I asked if we should do anything about the siren.
John wiped his hands on a rag and shook his head. “Nuh-uh,” he said, looking in the direction of the siren. Those things go off all the time,” he said. “It’ll turn itself off in a few minutes.”
I was confused. “But what if someone is breaking into the house?”
He smiled again and shrugged his shoulders. “Well, if they have their alarm serviced by the alarm company, someone will come around in a little bit to check on it. But it’s probably just nothing. Like I said, these alarms go off all the time for the craziest reasons. Lightning storms. A car backfire. Who knows why.”
I went back into my house and looked at the alarm panel on the wall near the front door. What good is an alarm if no one pays attention?
During the next several days John’s attitude stuck in my mind. How could anyone be oblivious to a noise people in the next state probably heard? Is it because alarms go off “all the time?” that he is now insensitive to them? Or perhaps because he knows that someone else will eventually respond, he is not obligated?
And the point?
Who doesn’t run the risk of becoming dull to things which once gripped our attention? Like a callous that forms on a heel with repeated wear, ears become deaf and hearts grow thick against repeated alarms.
Consider how often the gospel message is heard across our neighborhoods, our cities and even our world. Day after relentless day, like a voice crying in the wilderness, an alarm warning of impending danger echoes through the night. “Turn back to God,” it exhorts. “Repent. Ask His forgiveness.”
Yet many people (even, some church members) just shrug their shoulders, turn away and continue fiddling under the hoods of their cars. Content with their lifestyles, their relationships, their “comfort zones,” many people barely pay attention to the clarion call which cause the angels themselves to pay attention.
“Hey, don’t you hear it?” Every now and then someone interrupts.
“Yup,” comes the response. “Been hearin’ it ever since I was a kid. But don’t worry, it’ll turn itself off in a few minutes.”
Sad thing is, they are right.
It is for good reason, then, that the Scripture urges, “Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). One day the alarm will stop (Proverbs 1:20-28). And when it does, no one will be oblivious to the silence.