Phase 1, Day 1: As we like Noah step blinking out into the sunlight again …
by Edric Sng // June 2, 2020, 11:29 am
Photo: Terry Tan, Unsplash.com
Now the springs of the deep and the floodgates of the heavens had been closed, and the rain had stopped falling from the sky. (Genesis 8:2)
This morning, I kissed my boys goodbye at the school gate through our face masks.
Boys always play it cool, even 6- and 10-year-olds like mine. Are you excited? Aren’t you excited? We kept asking them in the lead-up to Phase 1. I’m okay I guess, they shrugged.
But they were excited. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they hadn’t seen anything of the world beyond Bishan – except for as far as they could cycle/scoot/skate – for almost two months. They hadn’t seen even their grandparents, nor any relatives, let alone their friends at school, in 3D – only 2D via Zoom.
That extra dimension makes a difference. I could see it on the spring in their step as they got out of the car, for once eager to get to class. I could see it when they met their classmate on the walk in, and forgot to turn around to wave goodbye to Daddy.
I forgive them. It’s a special day. Today (June 2) is the first day back at school for many students, including my Upper Primary boy and his little brother in Kindergarten 2. (As I type, their Lower Primary and Nursery sisters are biding their time beside me at the dining table, all three of us on laptops, thanks to continued Home Based Learning.) Hope is budding.
But the hope is now and not yet. Now, because there they are in school for the first time, but not yet because the recovery is preliminary, tentative, calibrated, still tenuous – a parallel to what we see in the story of Noah.
After the rain, the wait
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. (Genesis 8:8-9)
It takes time to get things right.
In kiddy Bibles and Sunday School songs (altogether now: God told Noah to build Him an arky-arky) there’s so much emphasis on the 40 days it rained, that we tend to forget that Noah was in that arky-arky a LOT longer than just 40 days.
Just how long was Noah in the ark? Here’s an estimate, courtesy of Creation.com:
So that’s nigh on a year they were in that boat, the majority of it after the rain had stopped.
Still afloat, but by now staring out at an expanse of waters, Captain Noah sent out two birds, a raven and a dove. Let’s call them Phase 1 and Phase 2, respectively. Imagine the hope in their hearts when they sent the birds out – I and thousands of parents felt a frisson of that this morning! – but imagine the disappointment when the birds came back. (The parallel with the school kids ends here – I imagine most parents would like their kids to return home?)
They’re alive, they’re safe … but it’s not quite business as usual yet. A phased recovery, if you would. Manage your expectations, pace your hope. Meanwhile, enjoy the moment.
I wonder what they did in the ark to pass the time. Animal checkers? Pin the tail on the donkey? Battleships? (They always win.)
How did you pass your Circuit-Breaker? In my home, as a family, we:
- Rearranged the living room
- Rearranged the bedrooms
- Became circuit-bakers
- Got everyone, adults included, kick scooters
- Got everyone, adults included, blue-lens spectacles
- Played too many board games (save me)
- Started a tow gay corner
- Got rid of the tow gay corner when things got out of hand
- Started our face mask collection
- Became Zoom experts
- All picked up the guitar
- Got a kids’ cajon (to complete the band)
- Went through the book of Revelation (made it to Chapter 22 on the last day of the Circuit-Breaker!)
- Rearranged the living room again
- And the bedrooms too
- And … repeat.
Word, worship, and wonderful times as a family. It’s not been bad. Maybe that’s why Noah only sent out birds four times in about 300 days?
What will the new normal be?
He waited seven more days and sent the dove out again, but this time it did not return to him … Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.”
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” (Genesis 8:12, 15, 20-21)
In time to come, we will emerge into the new normal. Phase 3 and beyond.
What is the new normal? The politicians define this in pragmatic terms: What businesses can reopen? How many to a room? Mask or no mask?
Think about Noah’s new normal.
I can picture the day Noah and family came blinking tentatively out into the sunlight. I imagine their sea legs would be so strong the land felt like it was swaying. I imagine they would have smelt like animal poop for months to come.
I imagine they would have looked around and realised the world was not the same as the one they had left behind the day they got into the ark and the door slammed shut, a whole year back.
Their new normal was defined on two fronts: What was outside them, and what was inside them.
What was outside was a fresh canvas. Not a single other person survived, none of the old ways remained – that Circuit-Breaker had served its purpose. Meanwhile, the world had been scrubbed clean and made new for them and the animals to repopulate.
What was inside was … gratitude. God could have started completely over again, heaped together some new dust from the ground to form a new, improved Adam and Eve v2.0™️, because the heart of v1.0 was “evil from childhood”. But He didn’t.
Instead He preserved this remnant, not on a floating coffin but on a lifeboat, and gave them another go. The God of second chances gave a generation a chance to get it right. Ham, Shem and Japheth would get to shape the world anew.
Every generation has a generation-defining moment. I’m 40 now – 9/11 was probably the big one for me. Nearer to home, those born post-Independence will probably never forget the national atmosphere of mourning for the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
After World War 2, there was a baby boom as people got a bit too carried away with their celebrations. We call them Boomers. I’ll make a prediction that in the years to come, we will call this generation of children who went to school online Zoomers.
Zoomers et al: We’ve got to get it right this time.
The new normal will necessitate changes to our way of life: Routines, acceptable norms, social dynamics. That’s just a matter of adapting to changes, circumstances – what happens outside us. That will come over time.
But more than that, as we move from raven to dove to prodigal dove, from coronavirus Circuit-Breaker to Phase 1 and beyond, we need a new normal inside us.
Living life God’s way
Like Noah, we need to start living a life of obedience (Genesis 8:16).
We need to understand that it is God who holds our lives in His hands, and He tells us when to move, for our own good. His wisdom is higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), and His plans for us are good (Jeremiah 29:11). He gives us Words to preserve and protect us (Deuteronomy 6:24) – then bids us come out of the ark at just the right time (Genesis 8:16).
The sooner we understand all this, the faster we will learn to stop resisting, and go with His flow – for our own good!
Like Noah, we need to start living a life of gratitude (Genesis 8:22).
The first thing they do upon exiting the ark is build an altar of sacrifice – the offering of thanksgiving.
Where did they find the animals to offer up to God, without having to make species extinct in the process? Why, even God had provided for that – as early as Genesis 7:2-3, where He made them bring a few spare pairs just for this purpose.
Gratitude is about knowing all things come from God. Knowing that the things we have are not to make idols of (the things we own, the careers we have, the children we bear), but to use to give God the utmost glory. Knowing that the salvation we have in Jesus is what will carry us through this flood of sin, into a new world where He is making everything new (Revelation 21:5).
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease,” we are reminded in Genesis 8:22. Seedtime and harvest are His to determine. Our job is to trust Him.
What’s our default posture? Have we been ingrates? Complainers? Critics? If so, maybe it’s time to reflect and re-posture – don’t blank God, thank God!
And like Noah, we need to start living a life of holy fear (Hebrews 11:7).
“By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)
The time for treating the Judgment and Wrath of God with flippancy is over. As I mentioned, my family has made the book of Revelation our Circuit-Breaker reading. What stands out very clearly in the reading of the whole book is that inasmuch as He is the God of lovingkindness, He is also simultaneously the God of righteous judgment.
As the angel proclaimed in Revelation 14:7 – “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Without acknowledging that there are consequences to our actions – aka judgment – we will see no need for a Saviour. Without acknowledging that the wages of sin is death, we will never treasure the grace extended to us by Jesus.
The ark which would save his family was built in holy fear. The holy fear led him to condemn the ways of the world. The holy fear helped Noah become an heir to righteousness. Want to call yourself a man of faith? You’ll need to be a man filled with the fear of the Lord.
We have been given one more chance by the God of second chances.
In our hurry to figure out the new normal of work, school and the quotidian – don’t miss this chance to reconfigure your life to one of obedience, gratitude and the fear of the Lord.
Don’t miss this chance to re-examine and reboot our doctrine and our life (1 Timothy 4:16).
Don’t miss this chance to place all your hope not on your own strength and actions, but only on the grace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The storm is passing – now we cry out for the latter rain.