When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one Talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
– John Milton – On His Blindness
“They also serve who only stand and wait.”
There are very busy angels – traveling “o’er Land and Ocean without rest.” But Milton, pondering how late in life his blindness hinders him in his desire to serve God fully, observes other angels, the seraphs standing either side of the throne of God. They do not travel about but simply ‘stand and wait’. Such is their service. These fire beings who antiphonally worship and adore God, declaring he is ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ are serving simply in their waiting.
Perhaps today you feel hindered. Perhaps shut down by medical treatment, or hindered by a lack of funding for a project; perhaps family tensions occupy your energy or the realities of what COVID is still doing have closed doors to the travel ‘necessary’ for the mission to which you are called.
When we find ourselves shut in and shut down, remember Milton’s observation of the Seraphim – ‘they also serve who only stand and wait.’ He knew that God does not ‘need’ our work or even the gifts which he graciously gave us. Let us bear the yoke to which Jesus invites us, even when that means doing so much less than we thought we were supposed to do. Sometimes waiting is the work.
Let us then stand and wait, joining the angels and archangels to cry, ‘Holy!’
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