Are you in the doldrums? Me, too. It is as boring as blazes being in a holding pattern with no hope of change on the horizon. The only thing that keeps me going sometimes is a story I often recall from a little book called 'Lessons from a sheep dog' by Phillip Keller.
The story goes like this, if I remember it correctly. Phillip had to train a sheep dog which had been mistreated by a previous owner. Of all the tasks that the dog was trained to do, the most hated one was staying still and keeping the flock of sheep in place while the master went off to do something else. Obviously the dog wanted to be where the action was, with his master. Conversely it was the most important task the master could give the sheep dog, and truly crucial to the success of the farm, but it really stretched the trust of the dog and the obedience of the dog. If the dog gave up and left its appointed (yet utterly boring) post, very much would be lost and damaged.
The only good part of that story was that the dog got extra rewards and treats if he stayed faithful to the master's task, more than for any other task.
Remembering this might take a bit of the sting of the wait away, but it doesn't take away the tedium. What makes it worse is reading about other people who are in a very happy place in their ministries and seeking signs and wonders from God flow. All of us want to be where the action is.
So this one is going to be a prayer from the pit, begging guidance from the Lord :
Dear Heavenly Father, Your ways are not our ways. For some kind purpose of Yours we sit in obscurity and endure another day of not seeing the gifts and talents you have given us employed in any worthwhile way. We definitely do not understand. Your own Word tells us that the harvest is rich but the labourers are few, and we want to be in the thick of the harvest and here we are on the sidelines feeling unwanted, ignored and useless.
As Newman says, may our perplexity serve You somehow. Surely it should be 'all hands on deck', but we are kicking our heels in the marketplace waiting for You to come and show us where in Your vineyard You want us to work and what You want us to do.
Please don't pass us by. At this point we're ready to do just about anything to get out of the monotony of doing seemingly nothing.
At the same time we are scared stiff that we will miss the moment when you actually call us to something new. When that longed for moment comes, please make it unmistakably clear what You want us to do. No 'in the glass darkly' stuff, but blinking neon lights and dancing girls and signs that the messages are unmistakably from You and You alone.
Inexplicably we are also terrified that You will ask us to do stuff we've never tried before (like walking on water and telling a mulberry tree to go and plant itself in the sea). We are scared that we're going to stuff it all up, and that if we really step out in faith that You won't be there to catch us because You have been so seemingly invisible, inactive and absent for so long.
Like the poor sheep dog that's had to stay at its post far longer than the master originally intended, we're beginning to wonder if we will recognise You when You come at last. We've forgotten what it's like to be at play with You, and to snooze contentedly at Your feet, and to feel your pats and scratches behind our ears.
When Lord will You come?
If it is going to be an agonizing while longer, please send us some encouragement. Every so often the scent of your promises gets carried to us by the wind. We go on the alert for a while, and then settled down dejectedly again at our post. 'Be patient, it will be soon' is wearing thin. What is soon for You could be months or even years away for us.
When Lord will You come?
Do you hear our howls in the night, and our cries and whimpers by day? Sometimes we hear the happy yelps and barks of sheep dogs afar off, praising You, and we confess that we've forgotten how. Then we take stock of ourselves and wonder who would want to be with bedraggled and miserable mutts like us anyway.
Please Lord, do not permit further delays to Your return that will set us free. Amen.