There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
There are lots of prophets and saints that can inspire us to greatness. Frankly, most days I need less inspiration to greatness and more inspiration to get my bare feet onto the cold wood floor on a damp, dreary Monday morning. On cloudy Mondays, Abraham and Moses and Deborah and Peter and Romero and Bonhoeffer are not particularly useful.
Today, I wish someone would tell me to “drop your nets and follow Me,” because my nets are a pile of laundry and some unwashed pans from last night and collecting my W-2’s. I really wouldn’t mind being called out from Haram to Ephrath “even though I did not know where I was going,” because most days I’d rather throw what I own in a backpack and head into an adventure than realize that I haven’t raked our back yard in months.
On cloudy Mondays, I need a patron saint who knows what a cloudy Monday feels like.
On cloudy Mondays, I need Anna.
I need her to sit down on the couch with me and tell me stories about getting up, every day, to worship in the temple, for eighty years, not for any particular reason or for any particular reward but because that was what faithfulness meant for her. I want to hear her tell me about her husband who died after only seven years, leaving her to serve God alone for decades and decades, finding intimacy in the Divine and lighting a path for the holy monastic women hundreds of years later. I want to hear about the days that she just didn’t think she could get out of bed, because she had already lived out the day in her mind and it dragged out – monotonous, repetitive, absent of the holiness that she imagined would drench every day in the temple of the Lord.
I’d like to hear about how whole years went by when she was unhappy and lonely. I want to know if she ever wondered if it was worth it.
A life that faithful, over that long of a period of time, isn’t just one long spiritual high of worshipping in the temple. Faithfulness is built one block at a time, and some years the blocks feel heavy and you can’t even see what kind of a structure is being built.
I wonder if Anna had learned that the faithfulness itself was its own reward and if she had given up looking for another one. I wonder if she decided, sometime between fifteen and eighty-four, that the value of perseverance itself was just the character that it had developed in her – that maybe she shouldn’t ever anticipate or expect anything else.
And then I wonder what it felt like to show up for another day at the temple, prepared to worship and pray like any other day of her entire life – and to see the baby Messiah in the arms of Simeon.
Spiritual stamina builds over years and decades of sacred repetition and practicing faithfulness when it feels like faithfulness is only its own reward. But ultimately, we wait for the Lord, because we are confident of this – that we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord! Be strong, and let your heart take courage! And wait for the lord.