I remember seeing pictures of Noah's ark in my storybooks when I was a child. The animals are on the deck with Noah. They're smiling. Noah's smiling. His family is smiling. Everything is clean and shiny.
Whoever drew those pictures hasn't spent much time around animals. I like animals. I have three dogs and a cat. But I also know what it would be like to be trapped on a boat with a bunch of animals for more than a year.
Can you imagine the noise? Can you imagine the insects? Can you imagine the smell? It would be enough to drive you crazy.
Is it any surprise that the first thing Noah did when he got off the ark was kill some animals? "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" (Genesis 8:20). I don't know that sacrificing an animal was a pleasant experience, but if anyone ever enjoyed it, I bet Noah did.
So why would he put up with the noise and the smell? Why would he live that long in the middle of a bunch of animals? Because the only alternative was death. The ark was where life could be found.
Like it or not, the church can be that way. It's not always easy putting up with other people. While the noise and smell may only be figurative, life in the church can be exasperating at times. But we have to remember that, like it or not, it's in the church that life can be found.
If you haven't found an ark — I mean a church — in your area, let me know. I'll do my best to help you find one. Fill out the form on www.hopeforlife.org and mark that you would like help finding a church. Or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.