In a terrible moment, Zion and I both caught sight of the bright red handle of the fire alarm secured to the far wall, at exactly the height of his inquisitive eyes. I sprang towards Zion in movie-like slow motion while our boy slipped through my grasp, reached the wall, then tilted the handle. For 3 sickening seconds nothing happened, then the shriek of the fire alarm enveloped every other sound and intent. Like a bumbling burglar I tried to undo the damage done by flipping the limp handle up to the trigger point. It refused to reengage and fell back in exhaustion, satisfied at fulfilling its heroic duty.
Zion and I threaded through the crowd of 400. As I called, "False Alarm!" to all who would listen, eyes shifted from my flushed face to the furrowed brow of our stunned three year old clinging desperately to my arm. "Please continue to exit the building," I added motioning to the exit signs, feeling like a nervous stewardess who'd prefer to be pushing a beverage cart. The graciousness with which our announcement was received amazed me. Some even patted Zion's head and said, "It's okay little guy," to which I shook my head violently, terrified that this might initiate a new trend in misbehavior!
In no time at all, a magnificent blaze-red fire truck rumbled into the parking lot. Three firefighters alighted onto the curb; two burly men and a lean, blond female. Their energetic presence brought comfort and calm to Zion for he felt he knew them. Emmaus, Zion and Ezra have nicknames for themselves from their favorite UK children's series, "Fireman Sam". Ezra is the blonde character named Penny, while Zion and Emmaus are Sam and Tom, the other beloved heroes. To Zion's delight "Penny" stood before him, then knelt to look into his eyes, while "Sam" and "Tom" stood smiling at him, just a few feet away. "Penny" gave kind, strict reasons why toddlers should not pull fire-alarms. She offered only a gentle smile to the overwhelmed mother who by then had tears streaming down her face!
Almost as quickly as everyone exited, word for re-entry was given. I scooped up the youngest three for necessary departure while Dennis gathered the rest for the second half of the show. As I choked down my emotions, Emmaus and Ezra generously lectured Zion on his naughtiness. He responded in a hushed voice, "But the Fire-fighters will fix it?" When finally home, my nerves got the best of me and I fell sound asleep beside the exhausted threesome. I awakened to a text from my girlfriend Damaris, who owns the ballet studio.
At the conclusion of the production, she had announced to the audience her thankfulness for the trust the parents placed in her and the studio. The second half of the performance was flawless and several joked that a fire-alarm seemed somewhat appropriate for, "Mary Poppins".
During the long ride home, before the nap and the text, I felt the weight of the burden I carried for my child's sin. I thought of all the ugly things I do and think, and yet the Lord loves me (us) so much that not only would He bear my sin, but send in his sinless son to take my consequences. The blatant reality of forgiveness and "clean-slate" moved my soul when later that afternoon I saw flowers on the table brought home by Elias and Magdalene. Damaris had gathered many blooms from her bouquets to create a beautiful offering just for us. Such love and grace carry much weight when we know we do not deserve them.
In these days since "The Alarm", Emmaus, Zion and Ezra notice every single extinguisher, alarm and fire-hydrant, no matter where we are. There is no risk of forgetting this experience! It is yet another picture of grace, jarringly dramatic, but welcome in its blaze-red glory, non-the-less.