For the majority of the six years that I was a police dispatcher I worked the graveyard shift. This meant that I came in to work during the evening hours, worked throughout the night and then went home early the next morning. I chose to work that shift not only because I’m a night owl and tend to have more energy at night, but also because it afforded me the opportunity to do other things like go to school in the day time. While it was convenient for some things, it was not always an easy lifestyle. There was plenty to complain about: crazy hours, virtually no social life, strange eating habits, disrupted sleep, and time away from family just to name a few.
In spite of all the drawbacks of working that shift, I can still remember there would be these moments. It’s almost hard to describe them and yet I remember them so vividly. They would often come in the dead of night, when the 9-1-1 calls had subsided and the officers were writing their reports, or sometimes after leaving a holiday gathering early in order to get to work. They were just moments when my mind would whisper to those community members I was serving, “I’ve got you. I’ll be on the other end of that phone if you need someone tonight.”
Don’t get me wrong, those thoughts were a rare occurrence. Most nights were filled with my complaining, sleepy, whiny, human nature that comes from working a graveyard shift. Perhaps it’s because those moments were so rare that they are so memorable to me. Whatever the reason, I cherish those memories now.
The truth is it was a privilege. It was a privilege to be on the other end of that phone or radio when someone needed help. It was an honor to be there for them in spite of my own desire of wanting to be in bed or live a normal life like everyone else was. And there was something too about it being anonymous, about being there even though the 10’s of thousands of residents didn’t know me, acknowledge me, or pay any attention to the fact that I was there… until they needed me, of course. It felt all the more noble to be there for them even when they never thought about me.
I discovered this Psalm this morning and it brought me back to those dispatch days and reminded me of where our world is today. It’s Psalm 134 and it’s just three short verses.
“Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.”
– Psalm 134
There were priests assigned to work the night shift in the temple of God. They not only stood guard around it to protect it but they tended to the fire on both the altar and the lamps on the candle stands making sure that none of them went out. The presence of that continual fire was to remind Israel of God’s continual presence. It was also to remind them of their continual need for Him.
This Psalm was written for those priests, priests who may have at times struggled with working odd hours, being away from home and family, and staying up all night. The psalmist is saying, “God sees you and He has called you to fulfill this incredibly important role. You are not just keeping lamps lit! You are reminding people that He is with them and that whether they realize their need for Him or not, He’s got them.” The psalmist encourages them to praise God for that unique and special role they have been given and then he asks the God who made heaven and earth to bless them for their service.
In the midst of this COVID-19 outbreak there are hundreds of thousands of people working every hour of the day and night FOR US! They are treating and caring for our loved ones, protecting our communities, transporting supplies, stocking our store shelves, answering our calls for help, planning and strategizing for our future needs, and countless other necessary activities, some of which we are not even aware.
My prayer for each one of them is that they can take a moment to appreciate the unique role that God has put them in. That they can pause and sense the gravity of what it is they are doing in serving us at this critical time in our world’s history. In spite of all that they are having to endure, the long hours, time away from family, and potential exposure to the virus, I pray that they know that their presence, the fact that they are showing up to work each day and night is serving as a reminder to the whole world that God is present with us and that He is here for us when we recognize our need for Him. I also pray the same blessing for them that the psalmist prayed, that they are blessed by God in ways they could never imagine.
Thank you to all of you who are on the front lines of this fight against the virus. Thank you to those behind the scenes who are doing things we are not even aware you are doing for us. May you find a moment to stand in awe of the unique role God has given you and praise Him. May you also know that the people of your community appreciate you even though most of us don’t even know you’re there. Thank you! God bless you!
Father, I thank you that you see all of the hardworking people that work day and night. No one is ever out of your sight, Lord. Thank you for the men and women who are working diligently to keep our community, our states, our countries, and this world functioning in the midst of this crisis. Whether they know you or not, Lord, they are pointing the world to you! They are keeping the fires burning. You are continually in our midst and you are there to meet our needs. Thank you, Father. Lord, I ask that you would bless each individual who is working to keep our communities going. May they know and feel your presence in their lives and in the lives of their family members. Thank you for your love, dear God. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.