I still feel like I’m on a plateau, writing-wise. I am feeling a little sorry for myself, and I keep thinking of Nehemya in the process.
But it struck me, in the midst of my mild self-pity, that Nehemya isn’t the only example of dogged persistence in the Bible. Instead, you find many, many, many people who stuck it out despite long odds and stretches of despair.
I was trying to think, “Who would have been the earliest?” but I think as soon as you hit any form of history you have the story of persistence in motion. Even in the bits of Bereshis that are pre-modern history (i.e., before Avraham) you have that same record of “I will persist.”
I think Avraham, though, is the start of persistence, someone standing in faith against everything around him. Ur was polytheistic; Avraham was a monotheist, and held his own as a champion of the One. Even though he failed (presenting Sarah as his sister, for example, which I don’t quite think I understand) he kept his faith – in stunning and frightening ways. (I don’t think I would have had the faith to sacrifice Yitzchak.)
Then you have Yaakov, waiting fourteen years to marry Rachael. Then he ran and reconciled with his brother Esau, whom he cheated.
Then Yosef, in Egypt, forced into slavery by his brothers and then rescuing his family from starvation.
Then Moshe. Then Y’shua bin Nun. Then the judges of the tribal league… even Yiptach, who sacrificed his daughter.
David, too, persisted. Shmuel.
In the end, I had a harder time figuring out the protagonists in the Bible who did not show that their lives were their worship of the One than finding examples of persistence. In other words, everyone showed that persistence was one of the core values – not just faith, but faith in this and every other moment.
In a way, that’s encouraging – it means that their faith isn’t being measured in the moment. Having faith when the chips are down, or up, isn’t the point, although it’s a point.
The key is realizing that faith is a picture, painted over a thousand days – from its birth in your soul to your last day on Earth. By trying, by living, you’re having faith, even if you may not feel like it.
Nehemya, for example… he probably had his down days. He probably looked around at the wall around Yerushalaim being slowly built, at the enemies around him who didn’t want the wall built, and had his moments of despair and ennui.
Then he might have remembered why he was there, and remembered the progress shown despite the obstacles, and decided that it didn’t matter how he felt – he could see the wall from his dreams, and see a world in which Yerushalaim was rebuilt and repopulated.
And he kept going – showing the faith and persistence he’s known for.