There comes a time in God's calling when you discover that you simply can't accomplish anything on your own. That moment came early for me.
God had clearly spoken to me of a catastrophe to come. The evil of my generation was about to come to a tragic end. Walking with Him, like my fathers before me, was the best thing in my life yet I've never experienced sorrow like I felt in anticipation of the flood. Was it really too late? Was there no other way? Even as I questioned, I knew in my heart this was right. It was like the knowledge of a dream, present without explanation or cause.
The task didn't make any sense, and the enormity of it was almost beyond imagining. I was to build an ark, on dry land, with the blueprints coming from the mind of God. We were to build, we were to gather, we were to trust and the project would take generations.
As I moved to obey, I realized I didn't know where to start. I didn't have the tools or the material. I didn't have the needed expertise. In fact, no one had the expertise. God was doing something new. Waters would come and cover the earth, and the island of safety for a remnant of creation would fall under His protection.
The mystery was this: Why did God need me to build anything? He spoke the universe into creation, and the heavens moved in their places according to His Word and will. He could speak, and it would be so. Why hand off the most important task in the world to amateurs? At some point, it hit me. It is His pleasure to work in us and through us. His plan is not dependent on our ability. It's only dependent on our ability to trust and obey. That much I could do.
So we gathered materials, we gathered animals and learned what we could on the way. And what a ridiculous way it was. Even in the face of the most solemn task ever attempted, there were moments of laughter and a sense of this being beyond us. How do we find the animals we need to bring? What do they eat? How do we close the door? Where will the water come from? Where will it go? Do we draw straws for who gets to clean up after the giraffes? Anybody have any giant boat building tools we can borrow?
Let me be perfectly clear. Our neighbors were not laughing "with us." Folks for hundreds of miles would stop by to laugh at our ship without a shore and the animals beginning to surround us. I couldn't blame them. In fact, I was heartbroken. They hadn't walked with Him. They didn't—they couldn't—understand a world where this made any sense. It hurt to know that the people with their lives and stories and families would never understand, at least not until it was too late. We could only do our best. So we started, even without clearly seeing the whole picture.
For years, we prepared and eventually were ready to start laying the framework. God was faithful and at every step, He guided us directly, making possible the impossible and leading us in the moment to prepare for what came next.
We built, we found every animal we could and tried to learn all we could. Many simply came, and God gave us favor beyond our comprehension. We worked as season gave way to season and year gave way to year. Generations passed, the work continued, with no outward sign that anything would ever be any different. We could feel it though. There was a sense of holy anticipation that the day was coming, and all would be as He said it would.
When the day came, we had everything aboard and God Himself shut the door. I have to tell you that the next few days were terrifying. The wind and the sounds we heard were alien things; even the depth of our trust and the relief we felt at God being true was strained by the enormity of what was happening. When the ark lifted and began to move, we knew what it meant.
The cities of men and their accomplishments were wiped away in an instant. Nations were scraped clean from the surface of the earth as if they had never been. All was given to the deep. We were buffeted and spun, bounced and swirled on a thousand waves of His judgment and presence. The myriad of life around us was strangely quiet in the days we floated on the ocean of the world. There was a weight to it, a sense of cataclysm with an undercurrent of hope difficult to grasp even for those of us who were there. We grieved the world we knew. We ate and slept and hoped for a day when the world could become new again.
When the light of creation came again and we rested on the mount of His presence, what could we do but built an altar and worship? There were portents beyond our control and there still are. Walking into the footsteps of His presence and power brought us to a place we could never have imagined. It all boils down to this.
My life is not my own. My calling and the task He has led me to are beyond me. The key isn't ability or effort, or a will set into the things our hands can build. The key is surrender.
"When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth ..." (Genesis 9:14-15a).
Caught in Sin
We had been at our task so long that it felt good to get back to farming again. Reading the seasons and feeling dry earth upon my hands was simple joy. The grapes were in, and we were finally eating fresh food we had grown ourselves. It felt good.
Our wine had run out some years before, and we were just now building back up to what my family would consider normal. I tasted one of the new wines, and it was heavenly. I took a skin and sat watching the sunset, drinking in peace. When that was done, I got another. I don't know that I consciously intended to get drunk, but I have to be honest ... I wanted, at least for a little while, to forget.
I wanted to forget what had happened, forget the weight of the world that had literally been on my shoulders for generations. I wanted to forget the cities that were now gone. I wanted, for a little while, to forget the friends of childhood that had been swept away in the storm of His judgment. I wanted to forget the wood and the grain and the animals in their sevens and twos. I wanted to forget the earthy smell of creation as we cared for her. I wanted to forget the rocking days on the crest of the waters, wondering when we would see land again.
I drank. I let go completely. I should not have.
I don't remember much after that.
I woke up in my bed, and the story slowly came to me.
My son had found me naked and alone, passed out in sin and shame. With nothing but evil intent, he immediately ran to tell whomever he could. I sensed he took delight in it.
My other sons were truer. Shem and Japheth walked in backwards carrying a garment and covered me with the honor and the dignity of men who walk with God. They turned their faces away from me, caught in my sin, so they would not even look upon my shame. They brought me to a place of rest and watched over me until I came back to myself.
I walked with God and still do. My failing doesn't change fundamentally who I am and it certainly doesn't change who He is. Don't misunderstand. I have no excuses to give. I own completely my drunkenness and the fact that my actions brought dishonor to God and my family.
The revelation in my story isn't that we're flawed. We knew that already. It isn't that we can't be righteous on our own; that's a given. We need God to help us on our way, and this will always be true. The consideration here is, how do we respond when we find someone caught in sin?
How do you want to be treated on the day you're uncovered? How do you want the men you know to respond when you're the one undone? What action do you want people to take when you have lost all self-control and moved beyond the laws of God and of man in moments or patterns of weakness?
Should we make failings known to other people as quickly as possible? Do we run to tell our brothers? Is it loving to further damage families and people for the sake of flaunting the story? Do we laugh and mock and delight in the fall of great men? Do we arrogantly shake our heads and whisper cautionary tales about how they should've known better? Do we pass judgment on them and write off their work and purpose in the earth?
Do we refuse to gossip about the shame of our brothers and friends, our fathers and sons? Do we walk in backwards, carrying the holy cloth of His restoration and grace and seek to protect them? Do we turn our face and treat their dignity as something precious—not to be touched by human hands? Do we bring them to a place of healing and safety?
At some point in this life, you'll find someone worthy of love in a place where they are caught in their own sin. You'll see them in that horrible place where embarrassment and shame replace everything else. You'll have a choice to make.
Do we recognize they are still children of God?
You can approach them with a heart filled with pride and a desire to add evil to evil.
Or you can find your brother and walk into that place backwards, carrying the cloth of redemption on your shoulders. You will have the chance to find the very heart of God in helping even the best of men come back to His presence with honor.
"But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness" (Genesis 9:23).