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The Habits of Hope

Everyone knew where to find them. After all, they had been daily perched in their particular haunts for hope with the regularity of sentinels.

They had little in common, as one was an aged prophetess, long ago widowed,  and the other a blind beggar; however, they had both cultivated habits of hope.

Persistent Patience
Luke goes out of us his way to let us know that Anna was a daughter of Phanuel, which comes from the Hebrew word meaning the “face of God.” A fitting fact, as her life seems to be characterized by a longing and panting for the presence and nearness of God, despite the fact that she spent the majority of her life widowed.

She had only been married for seven years when she lost her husband, a painful blow in the Ancient Near East as well as today. Instead of growing bitter or resentful to the Lord who had dealt her a hard hand, she became more attached to hope, longing day and night for His coming.

I wonder if she had days or even decades of wrestling with doubt and experiencing hope fatigue. I wonder if her steps were sometimes sluggish, mirroring a heavy heart, as she approached the Temple yet again to pray and fast and cry out and wait. Whatever was going on within her, we know that her habits of hope were strong enough to be the distinguishing characteristics of her life. She had a reputation for steady (some might say stubborn) expectancy, despite living our her entire life in the tenure of 400 years of prophetic silence.

Until one day, in the mist of her deeply engrained habit of heading to the Temple to wait on God, she saw the Hope of the World in the arms of a young, poor mother and father.

She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel. Luke 2: 37-38.

Unabashed Neediness
As Jesus was walking out of Jericho, headed into Jerusalem for his last week of life that would end at Golgotha,  Mark tells us that Blind Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside. This blind beggar is the son of Timaeus, whose name means “highly prized,” an ironic name considering his highly undesirable situation as both a beggar and a blind man.

Blind Bartimaeus was sitting there because this was his spot and had been his sad address for quite some time. Just as we have grown accustomed to certain homeless men and women who frequent streets in our neck of the woods, it is likely that Blind Bartimaeus was a permanent fixture at this particular gate of Jericho.

When he heard the large crowds leaving the gate, our beggar inquired as to the ado, to be told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.

He began to cry out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Mark 10:46-50. 

While the crowd had used his common name, Bartimaeus called Jesus a much more significant name, Son of David. He understood that Christ was the long-ago promised, long-waited for king of David’s line. He cried out unabashedly and unashamedly, even to the point of awkwardness and discomfort to the hearers who tried to shush him. For if this was the Messiah, his cries would be heard.

From Anna we learn the hopeful habit of daily showing up and patiently persisting. From no-longer-blind Bartimaeus, we learn the hopeful habit of crying out boldly, confidently and consistently.

As those awaiting His second coming, may we learn to cultivate these two habits of hope in our long-waiting for the world to be made right again in His presence and by His power.

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