I was reflecting not too long ago on one of my favorite prophesies, about which I have previously blogged , and I was trying to understand why it appeals to me. I believe that we tend to spend far too much time ignoring our strengths. Human beings are not created for solitude, not created to be on their own, but are rather created to be part of larger groups, like families and societies. We are created each with our own strengths and weaknesses, and with our own natural niches that because of our talents and personalities that we are well suited by design to fulfill.
Today I would like to talk about one of those niches that I fulfill without a great deal of conscious effort, and often with a great deal of reluctance. That niche is the town watchman. In both my studies of civil engineering and military history, from early childhood, I have been fascinated by fortifications. There are several types of ground where fortifications are easy to find. We find them in areas where acess is constricted—gates, passes, straits, or where ground is particularly decisive, such as hills overlooking fertile plains, the fords or bridges of mighty and important rivers, delta regions, and the like. Additionally, one finds fortifications in what is vulnerable ground—the borders with one’s threats or enemies, long lines of flat land without natural defenses, vulnerable coastal regions where ships can land with ease. Ground is either fortified because it is obvious that such ground is good defensive ground, or because fortifications are needed for there to be any defense. This is not only true of physical ground, but also emotional ground as well.
And once you put fortifications there, one does not simply leave such fine masonry or earthworks there. On their own, they are nothing but buildings. They are only mighty beause of the forces defending them. And among those forces are those who are well-trained and dedicated to searching for enemies. Their eyes peer off into the distance looking for threats, before sounding the alarm and rousing the troops to mean the battle stations and prepare for battle. Prophets are classic town watchmen, as both Isaiah (see Isaiah 21:11-12) and Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 3:17) can attest to. It is not as if anyone grows up wanting to do the job, even if some of us by virtue of our family backgrounds become (or naturally are) extremely sensitive to our surroundings and very aware of potential threats.
Again, without knowing it, some people become well trained at seeing danger on the horizon. It does not mean we are able to stop the threat, but at least we can recognize it. A town watchman on the walls is not meant to be alone. For when he sounds the alarm, someone has to hear it and respond to it. There need to be others who recognize the threat and are capable of providing effective action. So it is with niches. No one can be expected to do and be everything—it’s not realistic, nor is it possible for us to fulfill too many roles. We burn ourselves out, destroying our native gifts by pushing ourselves beyond our capabilities. I have seen enough of that to fill a lifetime.
And so our process of discovering our own talents and strengths and abilities is not so that we can be self-absorbed, but so we understand our place in the larger communities that we are a part of. If you are skilled at recognizing threats and sounding the alarm—you do so, knowing that the world is a dangerous place and there are many who would sneak up on defenseless and complacent communities and cause grave troubles. Our gifts provide us with our avenues of service, with our proper roles and places, where we are to find honor, respect, and renumeration. Oh, that we would be wise enough to recognize our own strengths, those of others, and be able to find places where we were well suited to play to our strengths? Isn’t that what HR people are supposed to be for anyway? Someone needs to sound the alarm so that they can do their jobs.