Patience, patience. (Genesis 8-11)
October 26, 2010
Reading Genesis 8-11 has made be realised that I have never read the Noah story closely, or if I have I don’t remember. I knew it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, but I did not realise that Noah and his family were in the ark for a frikkin year! Seriously, that’s a long time hang out with you parents and siblings in a confined space. And after month 5 wouldn’t you begin to wonder if you’d ever see dry land again?
What really strikes me is even after God “remembers” Noah et al and causes the waters to abate we’re not close to the end. The ark comes to rest on Mount Ararat in the 7th month but it’s not until the 10th month that the tops of the mountains appear. Then it’s in the 1st month of the next year that Noah removes the covering from the ark and sees the ground is drying. So he runs out, splashes about in the puddles and jumps for joy, right? Wrong. He waits another month until the earth is completely dry and God tells him to come out of the ark. It’s almost excruciating to read this slow progression towards home in chapter 8. I don’t know about you, but the way I remember this story is Rain. Flood. Olive branch. Rainbow. What does that say about me? Or about how I would like things to be?
In last Tuesday’s post I wrote about the rain expressing God’s ability to wash away all that had gone before. I also alluded to the idea that Noah’s deal wasn’t instantly appealing. It may have seemed more like a burden than a rescue. “Hey, Noah how would you like to spend a year in a box with your family and a lot of animals?”. At least that’s how it may have seemed when you take the short view. And there must have been days that happened, right? I love my in-laws but if I was in an ark with them for a year I think I would have my off days.
But what if I could take the long view? The view that’s coloured with hope and stiff dose of perspective? Could I be anything but grateful?
I still remember reading in Nelson Mandela’s autobiography ‘A Long Walk to Freedom’ about the moment when he is first allowed to see his family without there being a sheet of glass between him and them. He didn’t make a big song and dance of it, he just wrote; “it had been twenty-one years since I had even touched my wife’s hand.” Now that’s patience and hope. My husband is away for two months at the moment, and I like to remember this story when I start feeling sorry for myself; talk about the long view.
This is the kind of view I feel encouraged to take when I read this passage. When God’s rain comes the rainbow doesn’t always instantly follow. It can take a long time to get over the past. It can take a really long time to get through the present.
Perhaps Noah had no choice but to be patient; what else was there to do? But this story still reminds me of how God’s work is often not instant. Hope is revealed gradually; a resting place; a mountain top; a raven; a dove; drying earth; the voice of God. God speaks to Noah at the beginning and the end of this story, but not during. Just as so much of the time we have ‘dry’ periods of our faith, when all there seems to be done is remind hopeful. We even wonder if God is doing anything at all.
So the question arises: In our instant gratification culture can we allow God this kind of time? Can we wait for a rainbow?
photo by Odalaigh at http://www.flickr.com/photos/odalaigh/1554686404/in/photostream/
P.S. do you like I have neatly avoided talking about the Tower of Babel? No? Leave a comment…