Genesis 8: 1-18
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded. 2 Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. 3 The water receded steadily from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the water had gone down, 4 and on the seventeenth day of the seventh month the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5 The waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.
6 After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark 7 and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. 8 Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. 9 But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. 10 He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 12 He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him.
13 By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. 14 By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.
15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.
Coming Out of the Ark
All of us probably feel cooped up. It isn’t too hard for us to imagine this story today, but let’s not take it too superficially because all stories in the Bible are about us and our spiritual journeys, the snakes we listened to instead of God’s voice, the places that felt spiritual and gave rise to dreams, and even the times when we know that after this thing happened, your world had changed, forever.
Those transitions in life are very scary. We want to move out into the new world, but we keep asking in our own way, are we there yet?
We can’t imagine being cooped up with a zoo full of animals for 150 days like Noah did, and then staying there on that mountain for forty more days, then a few more days, and a few more days. Can we imagine what Noah was going through? He had a porthole the size of a bird, and he was in the hull of a ship for eight months before he opened it up. It says, “He made a window.”
LOL – He made a window.
Imagine how you would feel after seven months, then 150 days, then forty, and suddenly there was a window? Now how did that happen?
And it had to be nasty in there!
Have you ever been cooped up in a car with adolescent boys right after a ballgame? “Sure, I knew you could!” Now think times seven months, then 150 days plus 40 days plus more and more and more. You are taking them across the USA in your car, at 20 miles an hour and you can’t stop, and they can’t bathe – you get the idea. Add a dog or two, a few cats, a couple of chickens, and a goat or four all in your van. You might make a window too.
“Rolling, rolling, rolling – “ Right?
We have this idea in Quakerism called “minding the process”. We believe that everything can be discerned if given enough prayer and enough love and patience until we hear the clear and present voice of God. But sometimes we feel like Noah in a ship full of well-fed animals waiting for the voice of God to ring clearly, right? Sometimes we want that answer now!
I can’t imagine the reaction from Noah if John Woolman would have appeared on Noah’s ark and said his famous words to him.
John Woolman to Noah — “Dig deeply! Cast forth the loose matter and get down to the rock, sure foundation to the Divine voice which gives a clear and certain sound!”
Noah back to John Woolman?
Handing John Woolman and shovel and saying, “You thresh through this animal excrement (For Noah was a gentleman, albeit one with a drinking issue we find out about in a chapter or two), and you, John Woolman dig through this for the sound of God’s clear and present voice for thee!”
But isn’t that just what our decisions feel like sometimes? And right now we have lots of decisions that we want to make so that we can have some control over this situation. But it is out of control. Don’t you feel a little like Noah on that flooded world? Is your boat rocking all over the place? Or has it finally landed on the mountain, and you want to go outside? Maybe you were hopeful and you sent that bird off, and then swaggering back it came.
I would so be shoving that little tweety bird right back out the porthole, wouldn’t you? “Nope, little bird, you go and get me a sign from Gawd – Rat Now!”
I could imagine that after the second bird that Noah sent out, he was like, “Olive branch, olive branch. Please dear God, bring me back an olive branch!”
You might have been making fake olive branches. Just encouraging the spirit. Just encouraging the spirit. Not creating fake olive branches because you are about to go Shining on the animals, your wife and those sons of yours.
And we wait for the rain to end, and we think is this it, God?
And God says, “No, stay put child.”
And you do like Noah did who waited for the waters to recede, and then he felt his boat dock on mountain.
“Is this it, God?”
And God says, “No, child, you have to stay put.”
And we wait and we listen, and there seems to be a lot of things coming back to life all around you. You can see out that tiny porthole that there is this vegetation coming back, something fresh for these animals to eat, for you to enjoy. We send out one, and we hope that one will come back, and finally! Finally you get to go out to your new life.
It’s a new world in many ways. During that time cocooned in the ark, Noah and his family probably changed, but the world definitely changed. Sometimes you have to let the changes happen, get to know those changes, learn what your new normal feels like and will be like. We all want things to be immediately good, but that isn’t life.
Life is more like floods and birds without branches, and then finally rainbows, because the storms do sort of stop, eventually – maybe not when we want them to, but on their own, the sun comes out, and everything begins to dry.
Just remember that through all of this God remembers you, just like God remembered Noah.
And in you is a person wanting desperately to see the rainbows of life, after this ark stops, and who still is waiting on the beautiful, peaceful, crystal clear voice of God saying, “Finally.”
But God may still do like he did with Noah. The dove coming back with an olive branch meant that the grounds were ready. But God had Noah wait another week. Noah had to be sure to rely on God, and this time when he sent the dove out, it left – and said, “Follow me.”