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I’m writing today in the wee morning hours, or what I not-so-affectionately refer to as the “butt crack of dawn.” Who knew so many people were awake at 4:30 a.m. at the Atlanta International Airport? Why, even at this early hour, do grown adults think it’s okay to wear pajamas in public? As I ponder these lofty questions, I’m propped (literally) in seat 3A of a Bombardier CRJ200, my knees pinned against the seat in front of me as I juggle my laptop and a hot cup of much-needed coffee. At 5’11”, I feel offended that an aircraft would be built to the specs of Arnold Drummond.

I’m on my way home after a quick, last-minute trip to visit my good friends, Gil and Donna, in Sugar Hill, Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta. The town of Sugar Hill is just what you’d expect from its name — an idyllic, quaint and picturesque slice of the American dream. Beautifully manicured homes bordered by white picket fences, pigtailed schoolgirls pulling red wagons along sidewalks, and lemonade stands gracing every corner. It’s the kind of place, much to Gil’s chagrin, where it’s not legal to purchase alcohol before precisely 12:30 p.m. on Sundays, because “All y’all should be in church, ya hear?!” Need another example for why Sugar Hill is probably where The Truman Show was filmed? I joined my friends as they took their kids to Sugar Hill’s “3rd Annual Touch-a-Truck Day” — an adorable festival where children can get up close and personal with firetrucks, garbage trucks, tractor trailers and ambulances. Seriously, how cute is that?

Because of the apparent perfection of this little town, you can imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon what I thought only existed in the dark and dangerous cities where all the bad people live. You see, it was 1:30 a.m. on Friday night Saturday morning when I arrived at my friends’ house after a late night flight and rental car fiasco. (Side note: Apparently I’m part vampire and only travel when the sun is in hiding. Take that, Team Jacob!) I rolled my luggage up the cute path to the front porch. Gil and Donna were asleep and had left the door open for me, so I walked right on in (as was agreed upon in many a conversation prior to this point, I might add).

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED IN ALL CAPS, BECAUSE MY EARS ARE STILL RINGING ROUGHLY 52 HOURS LATER. THE SECOND THAT I OPENED THEIR FRONT DOOR, THE HOUSE ALARM STARTED TO RING OUT, SIGNALING WHAT I THOUGHT WAS THE START OF WORLD WAR III. I STOOD THERE IN SHOCK, HOLDING MY SUITCASE AND PEEKING AT THE SURROUNDING HOUSES, JUST WAITING FOR A NEIGHBOR TO COME OUT AND OFFER ME SOME ASSISTANCE ALONG WITH A GLASS OF COLD LEMONADE. BUT THEN, AFTER WHAT SEEMED LIKE AN ETERNITY, THE ALARM STOPPED RINGING.

My friends emerged from their slumber saying incoherent things like, “Was that you?” And I said things like, “I told you 50 times not to set the alarm!” And then, like a scene from Southland COPS Law & Order CHiPs The Truman Show, two police cars strolled in and carefully parallel parked their vehicles 12 inches from the cul-de-sac curb. The cops then sprung into action, vigorously inspecting my rental car with flashlights. As we peered through the window, giggling like schoolchildren, Gil decided to step out onto the front porch to explain the situation. He came out, hands first, saying, “Don’t shoot!” The cops approached, and he began rambling. In his attempt to explain that the alarm company called his cell phone, Gil reached into his pocket to grab said cell phone, which is precisely when the cops reached for their guns. This was the most action Sugar Hill had seen in a decade.

We’ll never forget the absurdity of that moment. But now, some 30,000 feet above Earth, I wonder why Gil and Donna feel the need to set an alarm at all. They live in such a safe, quiet community —  the kind of place so far from reality that burglars can’t even find it on a map. When I start to think about the value of what’s inside their house, though, it all starts to make sense. It’s partly about the physical house, yes — the furniture, electronics, jewelry, keepsakes, and other things no one would ever want stolen. But it’s mostly about the two little treasures who — even while the world’s loudest alarm echoed across the hills of Georgia and eastern Tennessee — slept soundly in their cribs. It doesn’t matter how safe, how secure their community might seem, Gil and Donna aren’t taking any chances that something might happen to their precious children. So they set the alarm, each and every night, and pray that God will protect their sweet family.

As singles, we often let our guard down. We desire to be in relationships, so we find ourselves a cul-de-sac lot of safety and security, otherwise known as a boyfriend or girlfriend. And then we stop setting our alarms. Why should we? There’s nothing to be scared of. We’ve made it. We’ve arrived. We finally achieved what we’ve been hoping to achieve all this time, and it feels good.

But Proverbs 4:23 doesn’t agree: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Did you get that? It determines the course of your life. Wow. That’s heavy stuff.

So when I’m searching for love, hoping for a relationship, longing for a mate — I should be on guard. I should question his motives, his beliefs and actions. I should pray. I should ask questions. I should seek advice from others. I should learn from my mistakes. I should.

Because my heart is that important.

Because just when I let myself get comfortable and stop keeping watch, I might make a decision that will hurt myself and others.

Because God said so.

So no matter how safe it seems out there or how much you want to find love or how perfect your partner seems, don’t forget to be on guard every single day. It’s not about living in fear or not trusting others. It’s about valuing the gift of life that God gave us — and understanding its brevity and fragility. The treasure of your heart is so monumental that Jesus came to die on a cross so that your heart might be saved. Now that’s something worth guarding.

And then finally, when your sun comes up as it’s peering now from behind these hazy clouds, you will be blessed. You will find that special someone, and will enter into a relationship without fear or shame. All because you remembered to set your alarm.

~Ruth