Noah - A true story.
Years ago, we bought a lamp by the artist Jim Shore. You may have seen his work in gift shops. You can instantly recognize his solid folksy style that uses traditional quilting designs superimposed onto figurines. I had the pleasure of meeting Jim some years ago when he and I were both award recipients at the giftware industries' equivalent of the Grammies. Jim is a master storyteller and uses his incredible talent at carving, to delight us with whimsical interpretations of well loved subjects.
The lamp in question was of Noah's Ark. It was cute as a button, with all the animals and birds clearly having the time of their life, enjoying a cruise ship adventure with Mr. and Mrs. Noah. She, a solid Mid Western farmers' wife and he a cross between Moses and a character from Duck Dynasty, staff in hand and a twinkle in his eye.
It provided light for many a bedtime story, but all those years it sat there telling its own story without saying a word.
Like all good yarns, especially ones that hold the attention of children, Noah's Ark is about animals, about a family, maybe your family. It is also about bad guys and good guys, danger, opportunity, courage, disaster, urgency, focus, effort, organization and a lot of rain. It is also about rainbows and promises and two by two,(there's also seven by seven but let's not go there just yet.) white doves and olive branches, and of course a boat, there's always a boat right?
The narrative holds us in an impossible intellectual embrace between skepticism and credulity. It really happened. I mean it's just possible? It's in the Bible? So it must be? Anyway, didn't a group of explorers find the remains of the ark stuck in a glacier somewhere in Turkey once? Then there are the voices, sometimes our own, that contend it never happened. There is no proof.
We swing from side to side, sometimes believing sometimes doubting and so are held in tension, wanting to believe but unsure.
So is it true? Did it happen? Well, it's a story. And stories are only told by survivors, the ones who made it, the ones who were on the boat. So we tell it over and over because in some deep way, we know it's important, because we know it's going to happen again.
The rains poured down on the Ark for forty days, just as we were forty weeks in the womb. Think for a moment of all those tiny sperm fighting to get to the egg, they nearly all perished! Millions of them. Only one made it to the egg, finding a safe passage through to the next world and you know who that was. You made it! Against the odds. Children have a special sense for this. It's like they just got off the boat and are wondering around dazed, unsure of how they got here but excited that they did. Now they are looking for a hand to reach out and guide them for the next part of the journey.
Yes, the journey. Where to next? Is it time for the rainbow yet? Yes it is. It's the perfect time for the rainbow, because there is work to be done. There's a farm to run, a family to raise and a life to be lived. The rainbow reminds us to rejoice in our days and to keep going. Because one day there will be another ark waiting and if you've read the story and followed the rainbow you'll be ready, ready when that moment comes, to climb aboard.
So until that day, you can tell this story. Sit down at night and repeat it to your kids, perhaps by the light of an old lamp with Noah, his wife and all the animals listening. But most of all, tell it to yourself, because it's your story and it's the truest story ever told.
I recently read a blog posting by Bob Hayton who mentioned a quote by Karen Armstrong in her book The Case for God (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009), pg. 86. Who in turn quoted from an online etymology tool that pulled from various ancient sources going back to Roman times.