Once upon a time, long, long ago, God asks a guy called Noah to trust Him.
God says, ‘My heart is broken. Folks have chosen to be brutal, instead of beautiful. Build a boat. Lights will guide you home, and ignite your bones, and I will fix everything.’ Or something similar.
Nothing God’s asking of Noah and his family makes sense. People mock and malign and misunderstand. Noah builds the boat anyway.
The rains come down and the floods come up. When Noah and his people climb aboard – leaving everything they’ve known and loved – they’ve no idea they’ll be floating on lockdown for a year. But they reckon obedience is better than sacrifice.
The rest is history.
Four-thousand-and-something years and one virus later, humans around the globe are sheltering in place because it’s raining fear, and fear reigns. It’s gone on far longer than they optimistically thought it might.
Fascinatingly, Noah’s written-down story has been preserved for a thousand generations – for your family, and your children, and their children, and their children – and an almost-ten-year-old boy, Scott, is reading it at school. His teacher sets an assignment, and a question reads:
What was the first thing Noah did when he left the ark?
He stretched. And then he built an altar to the Lord.
He gets the mark, even though the bit about the stretching isn’t in the original Hebrew.
He gets the mark because Noah and his family surely must’ve stretched – and been stretched by all those many cramped months of rocking and sea-sick rolling and bravely calling it a new normal with no clarity and no end in sight.
They stretched and were stretched, and their response to all that stretching – all that pulled-taut intensity and trial and uncertainty and waiting – was worship.
A week later, Scott’s visually impaired twelve-year-old brother, Cameron, asks to go shopping because a five-year-old friend has been in an accident and temporarily lost his vision. The five-year-old’s mom is asking Cameron’s mom how to keep a visually impaired five-year-old occupied?
Cameron thinks back to his own times of stretching and his mom sees how all that stretching has made space in his soul for others because when the stretching comes, we always have a choice. We can wear ourselves thin with self-pity, or we can allow the stretching to do its work of building resilience and capacity.
Perhaps – for you, for me – the stretching isn’t over. Although the waters have receded, the dove keeps coming back and we’re not allowed out of the boat just yet.
These stories – stretched over millennia – remind us how, even in stressful, stretching days, we’re all writing the stories of our lives, one decision-to-worship at a time.
And these stories remind us we can stretch our arms wide and high in worship nonetheless, making space in stretched-soft hearts to help others live their stretching stories well.
. . .
Happy weekend, friends!
Please go ahead and share this post with a stretched-out someone you love!
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