Eyes blink open to a shroud of darkness. He squirms in the tight space–there is no room to move, let alone settle into a comfortable position. Defeated, he bows his head and sees a faint outline of what he imagines is his hand; crumpled and wrinkled from years of construction work. He straightens his back, but his head meets a large wooden plank, unyielding in its slightly curved form.
He built it to be sturdy, after all.
To his left, he feels the rough hide of an animal. He forgot its name, but he easily recognizes its smell. The air is thick with the collective odor of the unwashed – ripe and rank. To his right, is his faithful companion, a dog with soft fur. Its slightly damp nose nuzzles against him, prodding him to see, to climb out into the open air. With a whimper, his dog asks the question that echoes in his own mind in these days of silence that follow the devastation of the world:
Is it time yet?
The man crawls through the floor, careful not to disturb the dozing bodies sharing the floor of the cramped space. Finally, he makes it out into the light. He blinks a few times, allowing his eyes to adjust to the bright sun. He breathes and the air is clean; refreshing his soul.
Is it time yet?
His body hums with the ache to run across firm ground, to feel his lungs expand with air, to feel his heart thundering in his ears as he screams, breaking the silence with exhilarated joy. It’s been almost a year, and the message he had been asked to wait for has not yet arrived. The dove has not returned with a sign from God.
Is it time yet?
The man looks back at his companion and gently shakes his head.
No, not yet.
With a heavy sigh, the man turns back to the cramped room, back toward the deafening silence, back toward the dark. He takes one last look at the open sky and breathes the prayer he has been whispering for endless days and relentless nights. And, as he always does in these prolonged times of prayer, he feels the presence of God, reminding him that he is with him. He smiles, comforted by the presence of peace, and ducks back into the ark.
As a writer, my mind builds wild imaginings of what is between the verses. What was it like for Noah to wait in the dark, with animals crowding all around him? The picture I painted in my mind of the waiting period Noah endured in the ark leaves an indelible impression:
Currently, I’m in a waiting period of my own; a season marked by a repeated prayer; whispered in sorrow, screamed in agony. I fight with my nature, wanting to run upon the land before God says to move. And yet, when I am still enough to hear, God asks me to wait and reminds me that he is with me.
How I wait in the dark effects how I worship in the light.
Because Noah waits in the dark of an overstuffed ark; God meets him with a covenant, symbolized by the beautiful presence of a rainbow.
Because the disciples waited in the dark days of a tiny upper room, God meets them with the pierced hands and side of their risen Savior.
Because of a three day wait in a tomb after the dark shadow of the cross, God meets us in grace and mercy, reconciled with his people through his resurrected Son.
In this stinky period of agonizing wait, I shall wait for my Lord, for he is with me. He is with me when I whisper my repeated prayer in the dark, weeping over silent answers. He is with me when I worship in the light, celebrating with exceeding joy, bursting over God’s goodness.
And on the horizon, there will be a dove, carrying an olive leaf.