Patience comprises a big part of the story of Noah’s ark. Noah’s waiting period lasted much longer than the dramatic flood itself. While the flood lasted 40 days (a little over 1 month), the waiting period lasted approximately 10 months. Noah sent out a dove 3 times (within a 3-week span) before he could confirm that the floodwaters had finally receded and it was safe for him, his family, and all the living creatures to leave the ark.
During those 10 months, Noah must have felt many different emotions, but especially the desire to leave the ark. He probably felt extremely claustrophobic living inside the ark with his family and all the animals. And sometimes, especially on the quieter days, Noah may have thought God had forgotten about him.
Can you imagine Noah’s hope and anticipation as he sent the dove out, and as each day passed and he didn’t see the dove, his growing excitement that maybe he will -- finally! -- be able to leave the ark? And can you imagine the disappointment and sadness that Noah must have felt when he saw the dove flying back to him? Yet, Noah holds out his hand to draw the dove back into the ark; there is no mention about Noah grumbling or complaining. He simply continues to wait. Noah’s faith is submissive and beautiful.
Meanwhile, while Noah waited, God was actively working -- making the floodwaters recede and preparing the earth for Noah, his family, and the living creatures to live in again. The Bible says that God remembered Noah (and all the wild animals) in the ark (Genesis 8:1).
Noah’s ark reminds me of the practice of waiting, which is always difficult. We all have things that we are praying for God to provide. Sometimes we can feel stuck like Noah inside the ark, not being able to do anything but sit still and wait for God to open the door.
The receding floodwaters remind me of all the things in our hearts that need to slowly recede as we wait for God to provide. Perhaps our pride, idolatry, or greed; our sense of entitlement; or our crooked thinking that we know better than God. This process will take time; I don’t think there is a shortcut to making the floodwaters recede. But through this process God humbles us. And we will realize the waiting period itself is already a gift because this is when we can be closest to God.
with illustration by Karam Byun