Standing the Watch

Have you been asking God for something lately? I know I have. Do you feel the answers are slow or non-existent? Me too—that is, until the other day when I read Habakkuk 2:1.

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint.” (NLT)

The moment I read that scripture, something clicked. As a former Navy submariner, I’ve stood a few watches. Six hours or more at a time—some watches on deck, some below decks.

Each watch station has its own characteristics, but what’s unique about all watches is that initially, you as the person taking the watch are unprepared. Yes, you’ve put on your uniform, donned your weapons, strapped on your protective gear—but that doesn’t leave you ready. So you go to your watch station and do the turnover routine with the off-going watch—unprepared.

Once you have assumed the watch, the real preparation happens.

When standing topside security watch on a submarine in port, there’s a lot going on. Initially, when you take the watch, all that activity has an equal priority to your ears, eyes, and mind. For the first ten or fifteen minutes, your mind performs the last portion of preparation for that watch—creating dynamic filters.

After standing there for a while, just listening, observing silently, your brain starts to block things out. That steam vent fifty feet away that pops off every 4 minutes fades into the background. The roar of the diesel engine powering the crane at the end of the pier becomes a quiet rumble. Even the soft, gentle slap of waves against the curve of the sub’s hull, the ebb and flow of its tidal forces tugging the ship against the creaking mooring lines, and its seemingly random pushing around of loose pilings against each other under the pier all disappear.

A different silence emerges.

Finally, you are prepared to hear and see and to stand your watch effectively. Even your body can sense differences around you. Now you’re really “on watch.”

New sounds touch your ears—conversations audible at couple hundred feet away, footsteps of someone walking on the deck of the ship opposite you, distant laughter, and unseen doors opening and closing. Your brain filters out what doesn’t change, while enhancing what does.

Until I read that verse in Habakkuk, I had forgotten what waiting on the Lord is really about. This is the position I should have put myself in when waiting for an answer from God. At my watch station. Alert. Mouth shut. Ears open to hear that still small voice speaking to my spirit.

(I Kings 19:11-13) He created us to hear His voice in spite of the clutter.

I won’t forget again.

-Alan

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