I remember doing guard duty while in basic training and I almost felt like I had stretched my body to the limits. If I thought guarding those green vehicles was all that significant, my attitude didn't manifest that! I made my rounds - walking back and forth, carrying the M-16 over my shoulder, and freezing my fingers to the bone. If someone had come to steal one of them, I would have given it to them by the end of the night! I was so tired, to the point of exhaustion, that rational thought had escaped me. When I finally got to go to bed, do you think I could sleep? Nope! I was so "over-tired" and my body just had a hard time shutting off. After the experience was all over, I recognized something of deeper significance, though. While I may not have seen the value in what I was being asked to do in guarding those vehicles from would-be intruders and rascally thieves, the base commander had a purpose in my being on-guard that night. These were his vehicles and this was actually his watch - I was just appointed to represent him while on that watch.
I am waiting for the Lord to help me. My soul waits for him. I trust what he says. I am waiting for my Lord, like a guard waiting and waiting for the morning to come. (Psalm 130:5-6 ERV)
Most of the activity in this life that we engage in is simply because we are placed "on-guard" by the one who is the commander of it all. The back and forth, rhythmic movement we engage in as we go through the "routine" of whatever it is we are called to do may seem a little fruitless to us, but in the end, it serves a greater purpose to the one who has appointed us to that task. The task isn't always the aim - the lessons learned in the task may actually be what we are supposed to gain from the experience!
Somehow, while out there walking that huge perimeter around that motor-pool, I realized something of deeper significance in my life. First and foremost, I serve someone greater than me. At that moment, it was the base commander. In real life today, it is the Commander of the Armies of the Lord - Jesus himself. I don't do what I do for me alone, it is because I stand in service to him. Second, the work may not seem like it is significant, but it has a purpose in part of his bigger plan for my life.
Probably one of the most "hidden" lessons in that experience is the one I learned about ability versus availability. That night, I was available, but my ability was pretty much shot by 1 a.m.! In fact, I was a walking zombie after that hour - having pretty much used up whatever gung-ho stamina I could muster to be on duty. The rest of the night, until 7 a.m. was a totally different matter. I no longer walked that perimeter in my ability, but in the strength which came from deeper within - at the soul level. I was doing it not because I "could" - for my ability had long been exhausted - but because I was making myself available to do it.
Much of what we accomplish in this life isn't because we are "able" to do it - but because we are available to do it. In making oneself available, we open ourselves up to the possibilities far outside what we think or imagine we are "able" to do. I didn't think I'd ever pull an "all-nighter" - because I had never been that kind of night-owl. I never thought I'd be able to stand on my feet twelve hours without sitting down - because I had never been given that responsibility before. Ability is reliant upon what we can muster from within. Availability is all about what we give and then reliance upon the one who gives us a little more to make it the extra distance.
Sure, I was anxious for the night to be over. My feet cried out for some relief as those combat boots constricted around tired and achy bone and flesh. My back yearned for just a little slouch to take the pressure off the rigidity of the posture I maintained in my marching back and forth. My eyes burned from the lack of restful repose. I wasn't much different than David as I was that guard waiting and waiting for morning to come. When I saw that first light of dawn, although there were still almost two hours until the relief of the day shift guard, I knew there was hope of relief.
We may not realize full relief when we see the first light of dawn in the midst of whatever it is God has called us to be available to engage in, but we can rest in the assurance that with the dawn comes the promise of a new light on the things which seemed kind of hard for us to discern in the night watch. The night watch isn't just about aimless walking - it is about discovering the benefits of being available wherever and whenever we are needed. God can use one who is available and he will stretch us to the end of our abilities in those times - but rest assured in this - the dawn brings new insight, hope, and a deeper trust than we ever would have had enjoying the slumber of our bunk! Just sayin!