I have an issue with the story of Noah.
Nearly every person knows the story of Noah and the ark, whether they grew up in church or not. It’s iconic. For many, the story of the ark is a defining moment of the God of the Old Testament. It captures His care and fury simultaneously. At the same time, God is both destroying the world and saving it.
My issue with the story has to do with before the rains come. Before Noah’s family is locked up with hundreds of animals for months on end; before the first outsider ever realizes they’ve made a grave mistake.
The reason the ark had to be built so big was because a huge number of animals had to be brought on board. Birds and land animals, big and small, herbivores and carnivores – God wanted them all.
Now, if you believe the Sunday school picturesque retelling of this story, what you will find are all the animals entering the ship neatly and calmly in rows of two. They remained obedient, orderly, and totally contrary to every wild animal alive. I absolutely believe that it is within God’s power to make a scene like this happen. God’s power is not my issue with the story. My issue is – when God calls us to something, it is never that easy.
Recently I’ve been pursuing the callings God has placed upon my life. Callings regarding my relationship with my fiancé; callings upon my work, hobbies and spending. And every step of the way I have been doing my best to listen and obey everything God has asked of me (albeit not without some arguing along the way). What I have found is this: just because you are obeying God does not mean the path he asks you to take will welcome you.
Literally, every step of the way – every call I have answered with obedience – has come with challenge after challenge. I have never been so simultaneously blessed and frustrated as I have this past year. Anything that could go wrong, has, and I have been left wondering over and over again, God why would you make this so difficult when I know it’s what you called me to do?
One of the reasons I get so aggravated is because of the image of obedience planted in my head by stories like Noah’s. I believe, if we could go back and see what it was actually like for Noah, we would see anything but the Sunday school version.
Instead of orderly rows of two, we would see animals running all around, jumping and growling and flying away from Noah and his children as they tried to wrestle them into the ark. I imagine the carnivores not being able to control themselves and eating one of the smaller animals, requiring Noah to go and search for a replacement. It would have looked like a zoo without the cages – dangerous chaos.
And yet, God still made it all come together. Somehow, the animals calmed and made their way onto the ark. One by one, Noah managed to fulfill the task God had set upon him. But I don’t believe for one second that it was easy or simple. I honestly believe Noah’s animals gave him tremendous amounts of trouble, just like circumstances do to us when we try and obey God.
Obedience to the ways of God comes with no guarantee other than He is with us. He has not called us to do simple things.
Take heart. If you are in the midst of trying to follow the call of God and are being constantly challenged, congratulate yourself because that likely means you are headed in the right direction.
If we are following God’s plan, than it is ultimately up to Him to make it happen. All we have to do is remain faithful in our small role and He will do the rest. As Noah’s story shows, He always does.