There are very few of us who do not know the story of Noah’s ark from Genesis 6-9 in the Bible. Some of you have gotten a more realistic experience of the story by visiting the increasingly famous replica of The Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky (a trip we hope to make).
This new experience in Kentucky allows any and all who visit to gain images for the story as they begin to learn more about what it might feel like to be shut up in an ark in the middle of a storm (with all the animals no less).
Even without going to this experience our minds can explore what it must have felt like to never have experienced anything like the rains and flood that were about to come, nor the ark built by a man not known to be a boat builder. Yes, God had directed, and Noah had obeyed, but these were humans facing the unknown for an unknown length of time.
What must it have been like for Noah’s family to follow Noah’s lead? Did they question or wonder at his choice to obey in faith for something no one had seen before?
What was Noah’s wife trying to determine about how she would feed and care for her family for an uncertain length of time (not even thinking about the animals)? Did the Lord give her a meal plan to cover weeks at a time and show her where to find the provisions within it for what He guided her husband to bring onboard the ark?
Those might sound like silly questions, but perhaps they come a little closer to home as around many parts of the world we are being asked or told to “shut ourselves up” in our homes for an uncertain length of time despite a certain tentative number of days or weeks given at the outset.
Noah’s ark provided a safe place God used to shelter and preserve this righteous man and his family and all the animals that would be needed to repopulate the earth. It was a shelter to take them all through perilous storms that they might well have feared would undo them in time.
I do not believe God has sent the virus that has rapidly spread across the world with its destruction of life and financial security, but is He not using this time to shut us up with Him in our homes to quiet ourselves with Him? Is this a way for Him to get our attention that has been drawn askew by our fast-paced living with little thought that it could all change in a moment?
Would it mean we might finally connect more with our family or those with whom we reside than we do with our devices and endless activities? Would it mean we would begin to deepen our gratitude for so many things, small and large, that we took for granted more than we noticed?
How little we paid attention to toilet paper in those days before now! For many of us we could stop by any number of stores on our way home from work or church or an activity and pick up an assortment of almost anything we wanted or desired.
A recent grocery trip brought all this into focus when we were thankful and surprised to find a package of toilet paper, we weren’t hoarding but would need in a short time. That gratitude welled up again to find a wonderful bag of red seedless grapes from Chili that we savored in all their juicy deliciousness at lunch later that day.
And what about our gratitude for freedom to go and do as we wish?
We have been reigned in and shut up within our homes if we are submitting to our leaders to save lives and prevent the virus from destroying more than it has.
We no longer enjoy the freedom of going to a movie, a favorite restaurant, or a leisurely trip to the local shopping mall, but we also do not have the freedom to go to our place of worship together and enjoy the fellowship and connectedness that brings to so many of us.
The internet has provided us with many options for virtual worship and teaching, but they cannot compare with the multi-dimensional experience of sitting among others singing together and listening to a message that points the way, grants us encouragement, and gives the opportunity for a hug or a pat on the shoulder to remind us we are not alone in whatever we are facing.
No, I don’t believe God sent this virus, but He is assuredly using it to remind us of so many things we have forgotten to be grateful for. He is using it to quiet our frantic pace. He is using it to teach us to rely on Him and his provision.
God is shutting us up with Himself to hear Him, to rest in Him, and to bring us through the storm of this current crisis as it destroys things that were our moorings before it came.
This storm will pass, but will we remember what it has taught us when it is over?