After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground. But the dove could find nowhere to perch because there was water over all the surface of the earth; so it returned to Noah in the ark. He reached out his hand and took the dove and brought it back to himself in the ark. He waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him. (Genesis 8:6-12)
This passage has always made me sad. I always imagine that after the time spent with them in the ark, that Noah felt pretty attached to the animals. If it had been me (which I know better than to assume, because I doubt that God would look over all the people of the world and see me as being the one righteous person left….but I digress), I would have seen the animals all as my pets. I probably would have talked to them (too much), named them (silly names), and would have generally grown pretty comfortable with our living arrangements (not ideal). I might have missed the way things had been before, but I probably would have grown accustomed to the new way of life and dealt with it the best way I could. (And yes….talking to animals does make me feel better about things.)
As I read this passage again last night, though, I thought, “Why does this make me sad? It is supposed to be a happy thing! It’s a GOOD thing, right? Isn’t it?”
So I thought about it, and the best thing I could come up with is this: I cherish things that are comfortable and familiar, even if they aren’t the best things for me, while I run from change….even if it would be a blessing to embrace it.
Can you relate to this? Do you get exceedingly sad when one door in life closes…when one phase ends and another begins…when one opportunity falls through and another is forced upon you…when life changes, as it always does, when you weren’t quite ready to move on?
I’m there right now. This is the last week of school, and my daughter is wrapping up her time in Pre-K. She’s been at her school for three years, having started in the two year olds’ mother’s day out program and moving up each year. Next year, we move on to kindergarten at a big kid school. An actual elementary school, with eight-hour days and bigger kids (they look SO big!) and buses (though she will NOT be riding one) and nap time and PTA meetings and all of that. We’ve heard wonderful things about the school she’s registered for, so our hesitation has nothing to do with the quality of where she’s going. Our hesitation is based on….well, the fact that it’s new. It’s change. It’s something unfamiliar and my daughter is growing up and goodness gracious…..can’t we do something to stop all of this???
And I think that reaction is normal. (It’s normal, at least, to the little group of moms from my daughter’s class. We’re all mourning.) It’s human nature to cling to things that are familiar, because in them is comfort. There is little risk in the familiar, and there is little to fear in what you know. Even if what you know to be true is scary, or the routine has become stale, or there are things you aren’t going to miss, at least that fear is known; anything known is preferable to anything unknown. (I, for instance, will not miss the thirty-minute drive to school every morning……but with only five minutes to get to school next year, what will that do to our time together in the mornings? What’s that going to look like?) The familiar will win out every time…
…but we do not win in sticking with what we know. We don’t win when we think so long about what was that we miss the anticipation of what will be. There is a reason that God keeps us moving, and His logic there is the same as His logic in everything: it is best for us.
Clearly it is best for my daughter to move ahead in school. What I fail to see, though, is that it’s even good for me. Change is scary and sad and uncertain, but it is ultimately good.
I read the story of Noah and the dove and feel sad over the lost animal and the change it represented, but I can promise you that Noah didn’t sit and cry when the bird didn’t come back. I can imagine, instead, that Noah waited – eyes on the horizon – hoping not that the bird would reappear, but that he would never be seen again. When the reasonable amount of time had passed and he could be pretty sure that the dove wasn’t coming back, I imagine that Noah was ecstatic. I imagine that he turned to run to tell the others in the ark, glancing back over his shoulder one more time to see if the dove was coming. I imagine that his sandals slid on the wood as he turned corners, trying to find everyone. I imagine his heart raced with joy that he could finally tell them that God was moving them on. I imagine that when he saw his wife and sons, he grabbed them by the shoulders, shook them, and told them it was over, saying something like, “Do you know what this means? We’re free to go! We are free to live! It is over!”
No, Noah wasn’t sad that his involuntary confinement was over. He wasn’t sad that things were changing. He wasn’t sad that the claustrophobic living situation was a thing of the past, because he knew all along that the ark was a temporary arrangement, and that it wasn’t the best thing for him. He trusted God’s hand – His presence and His promise – and when the dove didn’t come back, Noah knew it meant that something better was up ahead. He didn’t know what it was, but he was ready to go get it.
I want to live more like this. Not in tiny spaces crowded with animals I can only imagine, and not with my entire family under one roof, but in a way that knows – and feels – that when God moves me, it is always – always, always, always – because there is something better for me than where I am now. As my little family moves into a new season of life, I want to pause only briefly to reminisce – to look back with fondness on the past three years and all that has happened. I want to live in a way that says, “Change? Yes, please! Let’s see what else is out there! Let’s see what God is going to do this time!”
Noah embraced the change, even before he knew what it meant. He embraced change because He knew God would remain constant no matter what was coming. I know the same is true for me, and so as we say goodbye to teachers and familiar routines and the relative simplicity of preschool, I want to be the same way. Change? Sure. Bring it on. It’s going to be great.