This is an adaptation of a story that I once heard. I could not say whether or not the story is true, so just think of it as a parable. (And if anyone knows the source, please do let me know).
Once there was a wealthy young man who sold everything he had and joined a monastery. His first day after taking vows he was sent to meet with the Abbot and to receive his work assignment.
Because of his wealth and upbringing, this young man had very valuable services to offer. He could read and write, he was skilled in areas of finance and management, and he was well connected, which could at times prove essential to the survival of a monastery.
However, the Abbot had a different task in mind. He told the eager new brother about a pile of stones that lay in a field out to the west of the monastery. He instructed him to carry them one by one from the field to a spot just outside the walls. The young man, who was filled with enthusiasm for his new life, cheerfully completed the task, which took him the remainder of the day.
The next day the young man was sent again to the Abbot to receive his next assignment. The Abbot instructed the young man to take up the same stones, one by one, and return them to the spot where they had originally lain.
The following day the assignment was the same. Carry the rocks back again. It was the same the day after that. For weeks he did no other work but to move the stones. Back and forth. Back and forth. While his enthusiasm turned to confusion, and his confusion to anger.
Some days he felt like he understood its purpose. Imitating Christ and his suffering and all that. While others he dreaded the sight of the worn track that he soon cut between the field and the wall. Yet no explanation for his labor was ever given.
For three years the young man labored with those stones. He labored until his body was worn. Until he knew each stone by name, and greeted them like old friends. Until he became nothing but the brother who moved the stones.
For three years he labored, he changed, and he grew into a different person. His persistence in that fruitless task gradually chiseled out all of his veiled arrogance, self-reliance, prejudice, selfishness, and superiority, until his former self had been wiped clean, and his life was one of submission and humility.
After this time, his Abbot called him into his service, and ultimately the man himself was made Abbot of the monastery. A very different Abbot than he might have otherwise been.
This story is as close as I can come to making sense of what God is doing in my life right now. I feel aimless and useless. I feel like all of my skills and knowledge are going to waste, while I twiddle away in mediocrity.
The hope I have is that God has a different vision for my life than I do. And as painful as it is right now, his road will lead me somewhere I could never otherwise be.