It was almost midnight when husband walked in the bedroom to deliver news he knew I wasn't going to like. After almost fifteen years with him, it's obvious when he's avoiding confrontation, either real or perceived. In truth, it's sometimes amusing, watching him dance around twenty minutes or longer as this man of few words transforms into a chatterbox, sharing what is usually held in for me to draw out, all in an attempt to force the unspoken past his lips.
With a sick boy's moans coming through the monitors and one of two extra washer loads whirring on the floor below, my forehead frowned, mouth clenched at husband's announcement. He had to go back to work, a written piece due by seven the following morning. Better to drive in now while still awake than risk it after a night's lost sleep. I shook my head in agreement.
Nights with just me and the children are difficult--too hard to sleep with half a bed cold and empty. Then, there's the fear of being a woman alone. When husband is gone, I try not to think about it, focus on my school work, my Bible study, and whatever I can find to pass the time until I fall asleep.
This night, there was plenty to keep me occupied until the wee hours of the morning. About thirty minutes after he left, I flicked on the stairwell lights and quickly tiptoed down to start the second load of laundry, my nightgown swirling as I moved quickly into the semi-dark beneath.
I never made it to the washroom. As soon as I turned the corner, all the security alarms went off...and they're anything but subtle. Had I been returning a glass to the kitchen, I would still be picking up the pieces.
My first thought was, "Oh no! It's going to wake up the children!" then "Oh no! Somebody is trying to break in and Doug isn't here!" Instinctively, I ran to silence the shrieking siren, my gut reaction of the first thought trumping the five millisecond pause caused by the latter idea that this could be a bad idea if it weren't a false alarm.
House now eerily silent and two cats looking up quizzically at my feet, I stood visibly shaking, fumbling with the phone in my hand, trying once, twice, but there was no dial tone. The line was dead. "Oh no! They've cut the wires to the house, too!!!"
I was frantic, mind racing as I listened for sounds of an intruder, walked towards the knife block, not knowing what to do now. Why wasn't the alarm company calling me to check in!?
Probably no more than a minute passed before I realized the phone was busy because the system was calling the alarm company. By this time, even though my hands both felt as if they were defrosting from being plunged into sub zero temperatures for a prolonged period, I had figured out what had happened.
Tired husband had accidentally pushed "Away" instead of "Stay" when he left, activating the motion detectors as well as the perimeter alarms. The only intruder was me. Finally, the phone rang.
"Is everything okay, ma'am?" the operator asked. I explained the mistake, and said in still-shaky voice, "He scared me to death! I'm gonna kill my husband."
Poor husband was deeply apologetic, and after a few minutes of hearing his voice, relaying the events (even down to exactly what I'd told the operator), my hands started to feel less like victims of acupuncture. With children somehow still sleeping on the floor above and no real damage done, what had been terrifying a few minutes before was now a little amusing.
As I started to hang up, I said, "Don't worry. I can't kill you now. They now have a recording of me saying I'm going to do just that. I'd surely get caught."
He laughed at the joke, one we've tossed back and forth since we were newlyweds when I told him "till death do us part" was literal--there would be no divorce, ever. I laughed along with him, the healing power of shared laughter closing the book on a tense situation that will surely be a much-used punchline for years to come.
Over the past two days since this scare, I've thought about the concept of fear, only to conclude that fear, true fear, is more a dictionary term than a reality for me and most Americans. We're tucked away beneath sturdy roofs; feel secure enough to walk across wide open spaces during the daylight, sometimes even after dark; have liberty to speak God's name without fear we'll suddenly disappear into the night.
Despite America's problems, God still protects our country from so much evil, so much fear that is rampant in other countries splashed across the news. And it's not just fear that He keeps at arm's length. It's persecution. Censorship. Religious persecution. Rampant illness. Poverty. Most of us don't really know what these concepts really mean.
U.S. Census Bureau recently reported that U.S. poverty rates are at highs this country hasn't seen since the 1950s. That's 42.6 million people, 2.6 million more than last year.
God still has His hand of protection on our country, even, I believe, on our entire world. But could He be removing His hand a little more each day to prepare for the end?
Could He be slowly moving away from us as He did in Jerusalem before He passed judgment? Going from the inner court to the threshhold to the outer courts, resting above the temple's east gate, and finally waiting on the Mount of Olives outside the city?
One commentator stated, "According to rabbinic tradition, the glory of God tarried on the Mount of Olives for three and a half years awaiting some sign of repentance and when there was none, ultimately departed"* Imagine God waiting three and a half years, hoping His people would notice His absence, grieve for His presence, and repent...yet they did not.
What if the same thing is happening once again, only with God withdrawing His hand of protection on this world versus withdrawing His presence from the temple. If He is, would we even notice?
Or would we be like the children of Israel who never even noticed when God's divine presence manifested in glowing cloud went out from among them?
"Now the cherubim were standing on the south side of the temple when the man went in, and a cloud filled the inner court. Then the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim and moved to the threshold of the temple....The glory of the LORD went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it" (Ezekiel 10:3-4, 11:23).
*Lamar Eugene Cooper, Sr., Ezekiel, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 145.
Image: Heart in a Cloud. The Freedom Traveler.