One of our favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Noah and the ark. God decides to cleanse the world and start over. He chooses Noah and his family to carry on the human race. Noah is told to build an ark, a huge wooden boat. He is also told to gather representatives of all the different kinds of animals and to load them on that ark. Together, they are saved from the flood that God would send to cleanse the earth.
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.
When you think you can't take it anymore, remember Noah. When the donkeys are braying and the stalls need shoveling, think about what the alternatives are. If we can put up with the hard times, we may find that the sun shines again and the rainbow comes out.
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.
(Expressed written consent must be obtained prior to republishing, retransmitting or otherwise reusing the content of this article. Contact us at email@example.com)