Monday, December 1, 2014

Mrs. Noah deserves more credit


A few years ago my grandson gave me a little plastic figurine of a woman. I named her Mrs. Noah. She's wearing a dress of sorts, her head is covered and she's holding a handful of wheat stalks.

Mrs. Noah lives in my bathroom, on the shelf above the soaking tub. I keep her out as a visual reminder to be patient, long-suffering, non-nagging, and all those other great qualities that don't always come easy. I don't know about anyone else, but sometimes I tell myself lies - that I have the fullest plate, the hardest row to hoe, the tightest budget, most difficult relatives, and lowest metabolism. I can hold one heck of a pity party....

Scripture doesn't have much to say about Mrs. Noah, not even her first name. Here's what it says in Genesis 7:13:
On that very day Noah entered the ark, accompanied by his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, along with his wife and his sons' three wives.
That's not a lot to go on, especially if you want to compare her to the Proverbs 31 woman. Or Sarah, or Esther, or Ruth or so many others. But based on her life as Mrs. Noah here's the way I see her:

She didn't have any daughters of her own, only three boys, who grew up and married. She was married to a man who spent umpteen years building a boat as big as any current-day coliseum, in the middle of the desert, when nobody had yet seen rain. I wonder if that's how Mrs. Edison or Mrs. Einstein or Mrs. Franklin felt. 'Lady, your husband is crazy! I have to assume people didn't know what an ark was before Noah built it. I'm assuming building the ark took up most of Noah's time, and probably there was fall-out on Mrs. Noah too. Even if it was reheating his dinner at night, trying to get black tar out of his robes, feeding and putting up the animals because he wasn't home on time, her job likely got tougher when he started building that boat. A season when your husband works all the time is tough. I remember the winters in North Dakota, with two kids in diapers and Cub Sweetheart worked all the time. We talked in the context of cross-sections, how many cross-sections did he have left to do before he could come home. Husbands working long hours is hard to weather, and when it's fifty below zero it's even harder. Likely being in the middle of the desert building a boat wasn't a lot of fun either.

She didn't have any good girlfriends, at least not any iron-sharpens-iron girlfriends because no one but her own family made it into the ark. I think she might have been a bit lonely at times. I'm remembering back to our move to Illinois, to a college town. Cub Sweetheart worked for 63 days straight, and the neighbors didn't even believe he existed. That was the move where I started crying when the Welcome Wagon lady rang the doorbell. And yes, it was awkward. Lonely is hard.

She had three daughter-in-laws, and lived close to them, likely within the same house or at least within shouting distance of each other. She must have been gracious and loving or those men would have been looking for a way off that boat. I'm thankful to say I have one precious daughter-in-law and we dearly love each other. But we've never been stuck on a boat full of men and smelly animals for months on end either.

God didn't tell her to build the ark, he didn't talk to her, but rather to her husband. And he only told Noah, he didn't write it down like the ten commandments, so she had to trust her husband when he came home and gave her the plan second-hand. She trusted him, in spite of any proof he knew what he was doing. She was submissive before they came up with the word. Thirty-four years into marriage submission doesn't come easy to me. I'm still a work in progress. I want evidence, I want to see the plan, to understand the plan, discuss the plan. Mrs. Noah obviously followed Noah based on a conversation she wasn't privy to.

She had to be on board, literally, with picking up everything they owned, hauling it onto this huge boat, and setting up a household. Everything she would need to care for her family had to be there, ready to go, because there wasn't going to be any running back for something she forgot. She was obviously organized and a hard worker. We've moved across the country more than once, and when we reached the next home I've stood and cried at the sight of all those boxes needing unpacked. I imagine Mrs. Noah had to leave behind much that she cherished, and we all know she had to make do with pretty primitive surroundings. I can complain over a closet that's too small, or other small inconvenience.

She was married to Noah 100 years when her family loaded into the boat, and the water started seeping up around them. 100 years is a long time, probably long enough to work out all the kinks of a marriage so that they worked well as a team. That's a good thing because,

they had to live with all these animals, and no matter how many levels there were, they don't mention a lot of windows. I imagine how it smelled, the musty, dirty hay, manure everywhere. How noisy it must have been as animals agitated each other, or were scared and stressed. How altogether icky, slimy, slithery it must have been with all those reptiles around. I'm completely wigged out over one lizard ten feet away.

And the laundry. How did she do the laundry?

If she baked bread, what did it smell like? What did they all smell like? Yankee candles and Scentsy don't date back that far.

After how many days, everyone stuck inside that ark together, thrashing around (and I can only hope that none of them, or the animals, had a problem with motion sickness, but likely some did), don't you know they had to be on each other's last nerve?

I remember last Thanksgiving. We had my mother, a pregnant daughter and her son, our son and his young family and her family, all in all a very full house. It was fun but loud and crazy and a bit overwhelming at times for all of us.

Then someone threw up, and we all hoped it was a fluke. And it wasn't. So soon several of us were throwing up, and the ones who weren't were still interested in Thanksgiving leftovers and football games and such, and at the end of several days of that I felt like I'd been hit by a mac truck. And I may have been unusually grouchy, snappy, short-temperedish.

Genesis 8:1 says after forty days of rain, which in itself would make me twitch like nobody's business, and 150 days of the earth being covered with water, God remembered Noah. I don't imagine God had really forgotten them, but I can imagine that they felt like he had, at least maybe. I can relate to that too. Sometimes I feel like an awfully small speck down here, slugging it out and wondering if there's a plan. But God remembered, and it says the first thing he did was to cause a wind to pass over the earth. I assume that was to start drying up all that water, but I bet it didn't hurt to get some fresh air going on either. Like it felt when most of our family had been down with the stomach virus for a few days. That feeling of wanting to wipe the whole house down with Lysol, everyone take a shower, change the sheets, and open the windows. But Mrs. Noah didn't have any Lysol, or that nice basil counter spray from Target either.

As soon as I was over that stomach bug I cleaned myself up, got in my car, and drove to the nearest coffee shop, where I just sat for awhile. Even after it stopped raining, Mrs. Noah still couldn't get off that boat. Eventually, and I didn't add up all the days, they let a dove out and it came back to them, showing them there wasn't anywhere dry for it to land. I don't know what she said, but I know what I might have said, and what I surely would have thought.

Eventually, and don't you know it must have felt like forever, everything dried up, and God told them to leave the ark, along with all the animals and every slimy, creepy, slithery reptile aboard. I imagine what that must have felt like, to walk off that boat, and hit dry ground. Maybe a little like those cruises where lots of people get the flu, and they're in the middle of the ocean, stuck in little rooms with bathrooms the size of a college-dorm closet. Then the ship finally docks and they get to get off that ship they couldn't wait to climb aboard only days before.

So move over Proverbs 31 woman, make room for Mrs. Noah. She's earned it then some, and I'm blessed to think about her,  now and then, when I get out of kilter and think I've got anything to complain about.

If you'd like another look at Mrs. Noah, the fabulous 'helpmeet' example she is to women today, you can go HERE. 

Blessings,
Bev

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