I spent some time this morning reading the story of Noah. When I reached the part about sending out the dove to search for dry land, The Lord spoke to my heart. You see, it only rained for 40 days and 40 nights, yet Noah and his family were on the boat for a year. What an insane amount of time in the light of the destruction and complete annihilation that happened so quickly! Imagine that. What must have Noah’s family thought? After all, God was talking to Noah, not his sons and family. Surely their hearts must have failed them when the water began to rush around the boat and the skies grew dark. And all that time, trapped on a boat…floating aimlessly, everything that was once familiar hidden and gone beneath violent waves. As time passed, Noah's family watched as their patriarch sent out birds in hopes they would return with a sign and a promise that life was about to change and the storms would be behind them.
This is when I stopped reading. I’ve read this story so many time. Oh, but friend, this story just gripped my 32 year-old heart with fierce feelings!
Waiting on the storms to pass and the hope of new life to be on the horizon. That is the lesson of my entire adult life! I think about Noah's poor family and how frustrated they must have been. This is what we don’t see in the story that scripture accounts: We don’t see Noah’s reaction when a dove returns empty handed. We don’t see him turn and look at his expectant family. We don’t know if their shoulders slump and tears build up in their eyes. We don’t know if they grow angry and bitter. Did they sit down defeated? Or did they nod with solid resolution and bear up under the disappointment? Did their hearts fail them with the size and breadth of the storm? Did they manage to tackle a shred of joy and hold dear to it?
Dang joy. Man. It’s pretty hard to possess when there are no signs that the end is near.
I thought about writing about joy now—transition from this dark depressing talk of floods and life storms and bring a bit of hope into the gloomy picture. But I don’t want to. That’s too easy. When do we ever find ourselves in the middle of a raging storm and easily get ourselves out to safety quickly? It takes time and patience, faith and trust in a God that we choose to believe is still holding us in the palm of His hand. Because, dear heart, we are in a broken world filled with plenty of gloomy days that are going to swallow us up without thought to our tender hearts. Maybe the rainy days are short, and maybe they stretch on for weeks…months…years? Our silly birds might return to us without a hope of a promise….
Instead, I will say this: The same God we believe will continue to hold us in the palm of His hand is holding the flood waters in the palm of His hand, too.
I will admit that I have stood at the helm of my own boat and sent out
bird after bird after bird. Sometimes they return with a hope of a
promise, other times they come back with nothing. It's a sad,
frustrating place to be, especially when the storm has stopped raging
and the flood waters have dried up and you can see the land stretched out before you. It's hard to remain in the boat with legs ready to run. Sometimes, God keeps us stuck inside the boat...waiting...
He knows the perfect time. He sees the big picture. He drafts out the plan with His fingertips. But let's be honest, waiting isn't easy.
But it is worth it.
So send out your bird—your prayerful petitions—and tackle whatever shred of joy you can find as you wait for the flood waters to dry up. If you've waited for what seems like forever, wait a little longer. Just a little longer...
And find the joy...
Find the joy in the sound of the rain and the closeness of family and friends as you hunker down and lay low. Find the joy in the peace that you don't have to know what is happening next, but rest in the peace that you're not alone. Dance, sing, shout, play...run in the tiny little confined places...and hug and love and giggle.
Fight for the joy as you wait.