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When Will It Be Safe to Leave the Ark

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Here is a trivia question for you. In the Biblical account of Noah and the flood, how long were Noah and his family confined to their floating “home”?

If you answered forty days and forty nights, your response would be understandable, but wrong. It rained for forty days and forty nights. But the family stayed on the boat for a lot longer. Genesis 7:24 says “the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.” The family wasn’t able to go out even then. I have read estimates from one conservative commentator who concludes that the family must have remained isolated for at least 364days.[1]

I am not concerned about trying to reach a definitive answer on the questions of how we should interpret the Genesis story. My real point is the value of waiting.

If Noah and his family tried to exit the ark right after the rain stopped, they would have drowned. In the Biblical account, Noah had to wait for the waters to recede. He let a dove out of the ark to see if it would return. After several attempts, the day finally came that the dove was gone for good, suggesting that the dove had found a new home.

I don’t pretend to know how long we should continue to wait at home until we venture out. At times, I feel impatient for life to return to normal. I want to get back to the plans that I had made for the summer.

At other times, I wonder if I will ever get the confidence to return to the things that would bring me joy. When will I trust the crowds to return to a baseball game? When will I feel that it is safe to stand in the checkout line at the supermarket without worrying about keeping six feet of distance? When will I be able to place a piece of bread in the hands of people, offering to them the bread of life and the cup of salvation, without having them or me wondering if either one of us is carrying the virus?

I am confident that in time, the flood waters will recede, and we will adopt new ways of living that will become normal. But what will we do in the meantime?

We have hopes for what we will do with our lives when we can leave the “arks” of our homes, but we don’t need to postpone our living until a future date. We have life now! Wouldn’t it be a shame to waste it? Our “waiting time” need not be “wasted time.” Our waiting time can become a time to read, a time to reflect, a time to spend with your family (those who are living at home with you, and those who you can call), a time to love, a time to pray. A time to experience God in the present moment.

Psalm 27:14 invites us to “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” The key to abundant life is to live the lives that we are given today. The joy of waiting can be the joy of living.

Reflect: How will I live my “waiting time” this day?

[1] Mark L. Howard, “How long was Noah on the Ark?” in Journal of Creation 22 (1) 2008, accessed on April 29, 2020 at

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