Noah sits under the midday sun and builds. He takes a hammer to the nail, sets the wood in place and works on something he’s never seen before in his life. The neighbours all think he’s crazy, they say there’s no such thing as rain — yet he goes on and builds anyway.
When I was young I wanted to be a famous artist. I loved drawing. I loved taking my pen to an empty piece of paper and creating something with it. There were sheets filled with flying dogs, mountains of ice cream and little girls in big dresses. In the 2nd grade, I joined an art contest and lost. That was the first time I was introduced to the destructive idea that it was not enough just to love it. That you actually had to be good. I drew a lot less after that and if you ask me today to go and paint you a picture, I’ll probably tell you that I’m not much of an artist.
Failure turned me into a quitter. It’s no surprise that I deeply admire Noah’s tenacity to go on, to watch years and seasons pass, all for the possibility of one thing: to live through the tragedy. When Noah saw the waters rise and the ark float, he must have beheld it as a thing of wonder.
I have a friend named Beng who was born into a family of recognised artists. Throughout college she’d constantly tell me that she refused to follow that seemingly inevitable path. She wanted a desk job and a cubicle. She wanted to crunch numbers and sign papers — something empirical, far from the messy world of art. When she graduated, in the middle of finding a job, she started painting. Today her works hang in the homes of various art collectors and she’ll be having her first solo exhibit in September. Best of all is that when she looks at her life right now, she’s happy.
Resistance is futile, I think, when it comes to the process of creation.
We’re called to build, I’m sure of that. We’re called to create, make and emulate a God who has the capacity to create something out of nothing. It’s not about art, not really. It’s about using what we have and who we are to form stories and movements, careers and relationships, safe spaces, communities and businesses that mirror Noah’s hopes as he hammered his days away: to live, to really live. Creation, it seems, has only ever been a redemptive act.
Of course, nobody tells anyone that the act of building is tedious and boring. To make an ark while the world spits on your face is almost impossible. It takes grit and a commitment to the everyday things, something that doesn’t come naturally to a generation that bows at the feet of instant gratification. When the complacency hits, when the bad remark is said or when the contest is lost, we tend to sigh in resignation and give up on making things that float.
The problem is that when we stop, the world loses. There are endless histories that wouldn’t be born and lifelines that wouldn’t be cast. If Noah had set down his hammer and walked away, we would have been robbed of a redemption story. So I’ll say it again: we’re called to build.
I’m 26 now, far removed from the girl who used to spend her afternoons drawing. While I’ve strayed away from visual art, I have managed to find this: writing. My brokenhearted 8-year-old self sought out a new way to create. So now, when I need to find life again, I paint words on to a page or a screen with the wholehearted hope that they just might be enough to keep a drowning man from dying.
God knows it isn’t easy to make an ark but he invites us into the creation story anyway. Perhaps he knows that when we do, something in our soul — and the blueprint of the world — comes together.
To make an ark is to take on the challenge of building something good. To make an ark means to work everyday; it is to make something that persists. To make an ark is to collaborate with God. To make an ark is to be chased by doubt and doubters — yet to continue on, knowing deep in your gut that it is what you are meant to do. To make an ark is your life challenge. It is mine too. I hope we rise up to it together.
I believe that we will build many arks in this lifetime. Some will go on to save a civilization and some will be left unfinished. Some will take teams; some will be shining solo projects, the fruits of our labor under the midday sun.
And some will sink to the bottom or get ravaged by the storm. We’ll want to give up, throw in the towel, raise the white flag. To which I say: build anyway.
Photo by: Arca Noe, building the ark, by A. Kircher, wikicommons