The crowing of the rooster stirred her. She could hear the sound of people beginning to fill the streets as the sun filtered through her small window. It was the dawning of a new day. Like so many days before, Anna smiled and pulled back the covers and knelt once again toward the rising sun.
“How many years has it been now, Lord?” Her chuckle echoed off the cold walls. “Too many to count that’s for sure. Yet, You have always been with me. You’ve never left my side in all these years. Even as a child running through the mud, I knew You were near.”
Anna’s mind slowly filled with memories of her childhood. She went back to the days that were spent splashing in puddles with her siblings. They would jump from puddle to puddle until every one of them was utterly drenched and covered from head to toe in the fertile soil of the Mediterranean.
She could hear her mother now, scolding them for getting their clothes in such a state. But, not her Daddy. No, he was laughing at them. More than once he’d told their mother to let the children enjoy being children. Soon they would be gone, and there would not be much laughter left in the small house.
The rain was a common nuisance for the tribe of Asher. There were benefits to living along the Mediterranean Coast, but rain was not one of them. Each day seemed to bring only more puddles and more splashing.
She could see her mom shaking her head, “There’s always more water and mud than there are clothes!”
“Oh, how I loved our little house. We lived further inland and did not get to see the great sea much. I remember our first visit there. I can still smell the salty waters, Lord. I remember that day so well. That was the day I met him for the first time.”
It was a perfect day. Not too hot nor too cold, but just right. Her father had planned this special trip for her brother’s thirteenth birthday. Her brother was the oldest of the children with her falling only a year behind him. Chasing after the little ones and keeping them on the right path seemed a small price to pay for this day, Anna had thought.
Later that afternoon, her mother remarked on how someday soon she’d be chasing her own children. She felt a rush of heat to her face that was new and exciting, yet somewhat frightful at the same time. She was consumed by the mixed emotions running through her, and she had no idea what they meant. With each footstep that brought her closer to her destination, the more anticipation grew within her soul.
“What is it, Lord? What is it about this day that is so different from all the rest?” Anna remembered whispering. Raising her head to take in the view of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, she saw him…and only him.
He stood there on the shore looking out at the waves. There was something special about him, Anna could feel it deep within her. Suddenly he turned around, and their eyes met. They stood there frozen in time. Her heart was pounding, and her mind was reeling. And, just when she thought her last breath had come, he smiled at her. She dipped her head shyly and slowly raised it again to seek his face once more. He was still there, still smiling. Anna knew at that moment that her life was forever changed.
“He was a good man Lord. So kind and gentle. Always patient. Thank You for allowing us the chance of love.”
Anna soon found out the boy who had stolen her heart was the same age as her brother. It didn’t take the boys long to become best friends. Anna’s father often thought it was so the boy could get closer to Anna. He teased her about it when he came to visit a few weeks later.
As the days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, his visits came more often and lasted longer.
“You do know that boy’s not coming just to see your brother don’t you, Anna?” her Mother had asked her subtly one fall afternoon as they gathered what was left of the summer garden.
Anna stood with an apron full of vegetables only to drop them as she locked eyes with him. Her heart hammered so hard in her chest that she knew her mother had to hear it. Her mother only laughed and picked up the bounty that was scattered on the ground.
“Go on,” she motioned. “Go on over and talk to him. From the look on his face, I think he has something important to say.”
Giggling to herself, Anna whispered, “I don’t know who was more nervous, Lord, me or him? We were destined to be together. It was Your plan from the very beginning. I can still hear the trembling in his voice when he asked me to walk with him.
“Anna.” The way he said her name sent shivers down her spine and brought a fresh rosy pinkness to her cheeks. “May we walk together? I have something I would like to ask you.”
They began to stroll towards the olive grove. Neither of them saying a word, not even when their hands accidentally brushed up against one another. At that moment, all of eternity stood frozen. Hearts were racing, faces were flushing. Such a sweet pair. Such innocence. They both walked staring at the ground, unable to even look at each other. This new path was overwhelming for both of them.
“Anna, I wanted to tell you, I mean, I want to say, I mean, I want to ask you that is, umm, well, would you consider, I mean if you would like to that is. Would you give me the honor, and well it would be a great honor, but you should feel free to say no. But I would like for you to please consider it. Would you?”
Amused by his awkwardness, Anna encouraged him, “What would you like for me to consider?”
“Oh my, I wanted to ask, oh wow, this is harder than I anticipated. Anna, you are so beautiful and such a sweet and special girl. I am so out of my league. I would really like to court you and hopefully become betrothed to you. But of course, that is only if you think you would like that, and, well, if you don’t I’ll understand. I mean, I really don’t have a lot to offer you. But I would do anything for you, Anna. I mean if you would accept me.”
Anna watched him shuffle his feet in the dirt. When he stopped and looked at her, she grinned at him and nodded, “I think I would like that very much.”
“The year following that special night passed like a whirlwind and before long we were engaged. Mama and I spent countless hours together talking about the days to come and what I should expect as a new bride. Lord, I do miss her terribly. She sure did love You. Thank You for allowing me to have her as my Mama. She taught me that being a submitted wife was a way of worshipping You. She made a good home for us. She and Daddy had such a special relationship. They both sought your will in all things. You always came first in our home. Thank You for my Daddy. His example made it so easy to know that I had found my soulmate. He showed me what it was like to be truly loved by a father. His love was a sweet reflection of Your love."
“Anna, my first born daughter,” her Father said as he pulled her into his arms, “My beautiful Anna. I pray you will always be as happy as you have made me. You’re all grown up now. Starting a family of your own. I hope you know your Mother and I are so proud of you. We will always be here for you, Anna, always.”
There were tears in her parent’s eyes as she walked away with her new husband. Those first few years were hard. The expectancy of a child weighed heavy on them both, but with each new month, there was still no infant cry to be heard from their home. Anna didn’t give up, though, she just knew in God’s timing she too would hold a baby in her arms.
“How I wish things had been different, but then again, that would not have been Your plan would it Father? No, Lord, even now I know You knew best. Even that dreadful day when the news came that I was now a childless widow. I knew it was in Your plan. The pain is still as real as it was those eighty-some years ago.”
“Aunt Anna, Aunt Anna!” She could hear her nephew cry as he came running from towards their house from the olive grove. “Father said come quickly. The tree fell. It fell on…” His words were broken by heavy sobs of pain.
Anna grabbed her chest and fell to the ground. “No, Lord, say it isn’t so. Please, Father in Heaven let this be a dream. I can’t live without him. I can’t bear it…I can’t,” Anna cried.
The next few days were a blur. Anna stared into the distance. She made no attempt at conversation with the many family and friends who came to pay their respects. The only sounds coming from her was a deep, heart-wrenching sob that came from the bottom of her soul. There were no children, no one to hold on to, and no one to bring her comfort in her greatest despair.
Her family and friends tried to console her to no avail. Her parents talked her into coming back home with them for a while. The grief and pain were so hard to bare. Anna spent most of her days staring out towards the olive grove, begging and pleading for this nightmare to end. She wandered through her days as a pale white ghost, just a fraction of the woman she used to be. The only happiness she found was in those first few minutes of sleep when her dreams were filled with her beloved. The dreams never lasted long before they gave into the same horrid nightmare. Over and over again, they came, as the days slowly slipped into months.
“Then that day finally came, Lord. The day I awakened from my slumber. I had cried and begged You to return my joy and heal my broken heart. It wasn’t until I confessed my anger that You touched me. All those days of crying were nothing compared to this day. The tears before came from a deep loss. These tears were new and different. These tears came from a heart that had grown cold. A heart that had raised walls. A heart that was full of resentment.”
“I had never known that kind of peace before. Lying face down on the hard ground. I poured out my soul before You. It mattered little to me who heard or saw me there in the middle of the olive orchard. I was broken and shattered. I needed You to take the pieces and began to put them back together. You did not judge me nor condemn me for my anger. No, like a father who loves his children, You held me close.”
“It was my honesty with You, Lord, that opened the gates of my closed heart. It was then that I began to feel Your love shower over me. Such a sweet unexplainable peace flooded my being. It was then that I knew my life belonged to You. My days since have been spent here in Your temple, praising and worshipping You. I’ve never been sorry, even when others thought I was crazy. (She laughs softly.) They all thought I should remarry, but they did not understand. No matter how hard I tried to explain, they just could not comprehend that You were my life.”
“I don’t know what this day has in store for me, but for some reason, Father, I feel as though You have something special planned. Could it be that this is the day when I finally see Your face? The face of my beloved. Whatever it is, Lord, I trust You with it. Whatever it is I will praise You. You are my life, my hope, and my redeemer. From now until I see You face to face, I will continue to worship and praise You, Jehovah. My Rock and my Shelter. Selah.”
Anna rose from the floor with a bold determination to make this day count. This day was special, and she knew it. God was going to do something amazing, and she was grateful to be a part of it. Her slow-moving legs began to make their way towards the temple. With each step, Anna’s heart beat a little faster. Her soul filled with anticipation and she started singing, “This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Her weakened eyes caught the faces of the many people who filled the streets and gates of the temple. So many people in such a hurry. So many people lost and uncertain. So many people hurting and dying within. They all needed hope. They all needed Him, the Anointed One, the Messiah. Anna prayed that God would hear the cry of His people. She asked once again that God would restore them to what they once were, His Chosen Ones.
Entering the temple, her eyes fell on Simeon. Her heart beat one thunderous and loud thump. Who was that couple standing before him? The man held in his hands a pair of turtledoves and two young pigeons. They had come to present their firstborn son to the Lord.
The baby cooed, and his mother turned just enough for Anna to see the child’s sweet face. Anna grabbed her mouth to hold back the shout rising up from her soul. Then, that same hand made its way to cover her pounding heart.
It was Him.
The Promised One. God in the flesh.
Anna willed her feeble legs to move. Each step became lighter until she was running towards Him. His face was so peaceful, so serene. In all her years, she had never witnessed anything like this. Tears were overflowing her face in tidal waves of pure joy.
Simeon carried on with the ceremony and offered the sacrifice of praise for the gift of the firstborn son. He looked at Anna, sweet, loyal Anna. By the look on her face, Simeon knew she recognized it was the Messiah he held in his arms. He smiled at the mother and then motioned for Anna to come closer. With gentle hands, Simeon placed the Holy Son of God in her arms.
And, there she stood, Anna--the forgotten one, the lonely one, the broken one-- looking into the very face of God Almighty. Oh, how beautiful the scene. How pure and holy He felt in her arms. His little eyes radiated with peace. His smile held undeniable love. Words could not describe the feelings that washed over her. She was holding the Promised One in her arms.
Her Salvation, her King.
The tears of joy that flooded her worn face were falling so rapidly that they began to cover His little face. With a trembling finger, Anna lightly brushed them from His rosy cheek. Then, as all of Heaven stood as a witness, His little fingers wrapped around hers. Her God was holding her hand as He had always done. Her heart began to beat again with passion. Her mouth could not hold back its praise. There during the hurrying and busyness, Anna started to proclaim His majesty. She held Him up for all to see. God was faithful! He was true to His Word. God had come to redeem His people once and for all. She handed the infant to His mother as her soul filled with jubilant joy.
Her worn old body had been renewed as she began to dance around worshipping and praising Yahweh. Her feet moved swiftly, her voice the sound of an angel as her hands lifted towards heaven in pure genuine praise to El Shaddai, the Almighty God. Her song of adoration echoed through the corridors of the cold stone hallways and filled the throne room of heaven.
“I will extol thee, O Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.”1
The crowd that had gathered to witness the commotion watched Anna with wonder in their eyes. Some laughed, some mocked, and some even feared she was possessed.
“Laugh and mock if you will,” her voice radiating with jubilance, “but hear my words. God is faithful. He has sent His salvation to us. Our hope is restored. Our faith has become sight. This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it. I have seen my Lord; I have held Him in my hands. The One who has held me all my life is here among His people. Our Redeemer is here! He is here!”
Anna retired later that night to her room still reeling with excitement. What a glorious day it had been. Her heart was full of praise. She could not get over it. God had chosen her, Anna, out of all the women in the world, to hold His Son. Her God, just a baby in her arms. The love of her life had snuggled close to her chest. His heartbeat next to her own. The God who had held her through every good and bad day had wrapped His tiny finger around hers.
Anna peered into the night sky and knelt once more before her God.
“Thank You for this day. You’ve been so faithful to me. I stand in awe that You would choose to let me see Your face, to touch it, to hold You in my arms. Every day of these 100 plus years has led to this day. This day, this glorious day, when You allowed me to see You face to face. The only way this day could be any better would be to enter Your presence to stay and dwell with you through all eternity. When all other memories fail me, Father, I pray this one remains. Thank You for loving me. Selah.”