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|Noah's Ark Floating, Dove With Olive Branch|
by Illustrator of the Speculum Humanae Salvationsis
For this week’s lesson, our HGU curriculum recommended a story about a Goose and a Goat. I didn’t quite understand it, so I told the kids about Noah and the Ark instead. Even after our Tuesday afternoon session, the story stayed with me. I tried to imagine what it was like to be in Noah’s shoes when God first gave him His instructions. “Could You say that again, please, God? I didn’t quite get it… You want me to build a big boat?” “Gopherwood lined with pitch, You said? 300 cubits long, 40.. oh sorry, I didn’t hear that right. Did You say 40 or 50? Alright, 50 cubits wide, 30 cubits high… Two of each animal and enough food…slow down, please, I’m writing this down…” I wonder, did God give Noah these instructions in one psychedelic session all at once, or did His instructions trickle through over weeks or months or years? Did Noah decide to obey right away, or did he ponder about whether it made sense or not? Did he from the start think, “These are divine instructions from God”, or was it more like “Are those mushrooms we roasted for supper doing funny things to my brain?” Did God communicate with His people differently in days? I just think of my daily life, and how discerning the Will of God is not always so easy. (Perhaps God was indeed more ostentatious back then, going about in burning bushes and talking clouds and such.) I can imagine the obstacles Noah faced. It is one step for Noah to decide that, yes, God is telling me to build a floating zoo. It is another to have to start telling people about it. When Noah tells his wife about what he thinks he heard from God, is she immediately in on the plan, or does she bring a hand to his brow to check for a fever, “Are you well, Noah? That sounds absolutely crazy.” That’s certainly what the neighbors said, when Noah goes about telling them to mend their ways or face God’s wrathful flood. This whole enterprise would’ve made him the laughing stock of the region. Perhaps he became a bit of a tourist attraction. “What shall we do this weekend?” asks a bored shepherd. “I heard that there is a crazy old dude building an enormous boat on the other side of the forest,” says his friend. “A boat? That’s pretty mental. Where’s he going to use it? We’re tens of parasangs away from any water…” “I hear his three sons are going around collecting animals to put in the boat. What a bunch of lunatics. Let’s check it out and have a laugh…” (No, I didn’t actually share these particular musings on Noah with the children.)
What struck me most was that Noah took around 60 or 70 years to build the Ark. That’s a really long time of striving towards a goal that seems preposterous and insane to everyone else, a really long time of facing mocking, ridicule, and disdain from the people around him. What stellar example of a steady, sustained faith, backed up with persistence and action!
And see how abundantly God rewards him in the end. Because of his faith and obedience, God makes a covenant with Noah and his descendants, that He would never send such a flood again. Lucky us!
In a previous post, I had alluded to a particular afternoon that had gone badly with the class, and was wondering where I had gone wrong. Anyway, just to let you know, I eventually figured it out. I had allowed all that worrying and fretting about the unruly behavior to steal my joy. I fell into the trap of thinking that it was something completely under my control. That is, if I just acquired the “secret” combination of props (scouring the city like a madwoman in search of a Tibetan singing bowl, some yoga breathing exercises, mandalas), I could solve my “problem”. What I forgot was that, from the beginning, this task was always bigger than me. (What was I thinking when I agreed to teach 10 first grade kids in German?) However, from the beginning, He had promised that He would bridge the gap between what I could do and what needed to be done with His Grace. Except, His Grace cannot flow into a situation when I don’t offer it up to Him first. Offering something up to Him is like making room for Him to stand beside and help me. And in my “busyness”, that’s the crucial step I had forgotten.
So, before this week’s lesson, I spent some time in my prayer room (closet is more accurate), offering up the afternoon to Him. I am but His humble servant. I offer my hands and my feet, my voice and time, all my being, for Him to use. When I offer my efforts up to Him, my joy returns. In His eyes, it is the act of offering it up that counts, not the result itself, since the result comes from Him anyway. Offering our actions up to Him is a form of surrendering to His will.
Surrendering is not the same as giving up and losing hope. I’m still doing all I can on the practical side of things, trying to improve how the weekly catechism afternoon goes. Next week, I’ll bring in some music, perhaps from St. Hildegard of Bingen. Perhaps I’ll invite the parents of the unruly kids to help out, to have an extra adult in the room to keep order. I’ll continue to do my best with the practical stuff. When I “finish” it off (like the pitch that keeps the Ark waterproof) with my “secret” ingredient of offering it up to God, I know I can handle whatever comes joyfully. Whatever happens, (and by now, I’m no longer just thinking of the challenge of keeping unruly kids to calm down, but all the other types of challenges, large and small, that we encounter in our daily lives), I know that "it's all good” (to be said home-boy style). In St Paul’s words, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Now, if only I can remember that the next time I find myself in a bind!