The General was up ahead speaking to his officers. The soldiers were waiting in formation. They did not know just when the orders would come, but there was no way to avoid the battle now. The enemy was coming and the scouts had not yet returned with their information. One man stood silently, sword in its sheath and shield on the ground resting against his thigh. He was definitely afraid, and he knew many of his fellows had the same concerns. Would they survive? Would some of them turn and run before the battle began? The enemy was supposed to be fierce and unmerciful; everyone knew it.
There were, easily, two thousand men standing at attention waiting for the battle to begin, and the fear of greater numbers of the enemy troops made it difficult to be patient. In addition, he listened to the sounds of the troop's accouterments clanking; metal on metal, and occasionally metal on leather. A sneeze or a cough here and there added to the distractions. A few war dogs would whimper, wanting to be let loose into the fray. Once in a while a horse would stamp and whinny, causing many to be startled. It was difficult to listen for the distant sounds of the enemy troops with all the noise up close. He knew it was not really his job to sound the alarm, but that did not make his desire any less. His nerves were on edge, and his spirit felt thin, "like butter spread over too much bread". Every sound made him jump, and he was constantly distracted from what his real duty was.
He had actually been standing here for only a few hours, though it felt like days. Time always stretched into over-exaggerated lengths when he was waiting for a battle to begin. Yet, this battle was different from all the others. He had a new General that he had never served under, but he had actually volunteered for this position because he had heard so many good reports about the man and his exploits. The General was a strong leader who was sensitive to the needs of his soldiers, and never neglected to provide for them, even when things were at their lowest.
Then he heard it; he knew he did. Asking the man to his left if he had heard anything confirmed it; he had also. It was the scout returning with news. Scouts were a bit annoying though, since they never reported to the troops, but went straight to the General. Of course, that was the proper procedure, but it was still difficult for the soldiers to wait. Then, to make it more difficult, the General called a couple of the officers aside to discuss things with them in a private tent. It actually only took about ten minutes for them to talk things over, but for the soldiers it seemed an eternity. Not a sound came from that tent. Once, a servant ran out and returned in a few moments with something in his hand, but it could not be seen what it was. That did not help his desire for information, but only made him speculate even more. The wait continued.
The agony of waiting is always a challenge to us as humans. I speak mostly to my brethren here in America because we see ourselves on the brink of the establishment of the Ordinariate here (yet this also applies to our brethren in other countries as well). Bound by time, and corrupted by selfishness, we want things to come quickly and do not appreciate when we know something is going on, but we are not informed of what those things are. Hoping to be made a part of the "inner circle" it is hard to sit and just wait. Scripture tells us many times about how good it is to be made to wait (Lamentations 3:25-28, etc.), but that does not make it enjoyable. In times like this, we want to be able to rest in the Lord and trust that things will happen at the right time. Every one of us knows that "all things work together for good to them that love God" but we also know that the Evil One gets his hands in the pot sometimes and wants to make us miserable in the process.
The type of illustration used above is not a new one. The Apostle Paul used it long ago, though in a shorter form. While writing about ordinations, he told Timothy, "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully" (2 Timothy 2:3-5). In other words, do not let yourself get distracted from the task at hand; if you do not perform your duty as commanded, then you are not faithful to your task. It is not right to justify impatience and irritability on the grounds that others are not working at the speed, or in the manner, that we want.
Some of the "hardness" of a soldier is sitting tight and waiting for the orders to be given. It may seem like it is taking longer than necessary, but that is not ours to decide. We may also get upset when someone else has some information that we are not privy to, and we think that we should be kept "in the loop". In these days, some of us will get our hopes up at every little noise we hear. Others will get depressed when things do not meet with their expectations. Another will make assumptions based on vague rumors. Each soldier (clergy or laity) is given his own task, and not the task of another, and each is supposed to "strive lawfully" if he wants to be crowned in the end. The CDF may not know every thought each of us has during this time of waiting, but our precious Lord certainly does, and He does not want to have us labor in vain. He wants this time to be for our betterment, and for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.
We have all heard the prayer, "Lord give me patience, and do it now!" We laugh because we know that is really how it feels for each of us. The struggles, the fears, and the misunderstandings are all for our sanctification. They are all for the glory of God. Nothing is purposeless, and there is no event that is disconnected from the wondrous plan of God, even if we do not understand how it is so (just as Job). Our earnest desire at this time (as well as the focus of much of our prayers) should be to arrive at the place where we can rest and say with the Apostle Paul, "thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ" (2 Cor 2:14).
The admonition that we each need to hear every day is an old one, but it needs to be restated because it is even more pertinent now than ever before. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58).