Above a thick layer of light grey clouds the sun appeared to mark the seventh day of the first week of steady rainfall. Neither the villagers, nor the sequestered family had seen the bright round sun for many days, and yet day and night still managed to filter through miles of foggy white sky. It wasn't just the rain that tormented the people outside the ark, it was also the strange white sky that hid both sun and moon. The eerie cloudiness made children and old men cry. Teardrops and raindrops together fell upon the soaked ground and burrowed themselves deep beneath roots and rocks.
Having just awoken from a dream Noah hurriedly dressed and shouted to stir his family. In his dream God told Noah to prepare his family for their own death and rebirth, that the long hard days of physical preparation for the flood were behind them. This forty day journey was to be a period of inner transformation. God told Noah that He would instruct his family through him. Noah was anxious to get started. He too was weary of their fear and complaints.
A short while later the clan gathered in what came to be known as the meeting room. It was one of the few rooms in the ark with a window. This morning the rains were falling so hard and fast that Noah had to speak very loudly to be heard, but he chose this room to contrast for them their sheltered safety with the havoc on the other side of the wooden walls.
Noah pounded his rocky mallet on the makeshift table to get the chatty group's attention. When all that could be heard was the rain and roosters he began to speak with a deep powerful tone of voice that even his own wife did not recognize. "Sha-me, my sons and daughters, let us not waste our energy in fear, for we have been set apart from this doomed world. We are safe. The hateful world we once knew will soon be gone, and only we will exist."
Shem looked over at Ham and his mother both of whose eyes were fixed on Noah's face. Japheth and his wife were cuddled together, her head laying in the cleft of his shoulder, her eyes closed. Shem wondered if Coochie was listening intently or snoozing. His mind wandered from Coochie to her brother and the other young men he grew up with, how they helped him to work his fields and hunt. He wondered what they were doing at that moment. Shem knew that he had to stop thinking about the past. It was no use. God did not ask his permission to wipe out all of humanity and he was powerless to stop it, so Shem turned his attention back to what his father was saying.
"And don't we want that?" bellowed Noah, "Did we not deplore the violence we had been threatened with every day of our existence? I begged God to deliver me from those murderous thugs, those depraved people. He answered me. Our God, Who created this world and is now destroying it out of disgust, wants us to prepare ourselves to make a better world. We are His tools. We must not look back at our old lives, or think about our former acquaintances, even our relatives..." At that Noah paused because everyone in that room had friends and family whose suffering and eventual death they grieved. "We must NOT look back, we must train ourselves instead to look inward, at our own hearts and minds, to align ourselves with the will of God, and accept what we do not understand."
Japheth and his wife unfurled themselves and sat up straight eyes wide open.
"While man and beast are being suffocated by water unto death, you shall be cleansed for a new life; your old man will pass away, let him or her go. As you sit in this inner sanctum of our ark focus your mind on the sacred inner sanctum of your body where lie your thoughts, your emotions, and your appetites."
Noah's strong voice and powerful words drowned out the loud din of the animals and the din of the driving rain when he said, "You, my holy family, are seeds of the re-creation of humankind. Prepare yourself for rebirth!" Noah paused after making that shocking proclamation. He wanted to give his family time to let the concept of their own transformation sink in.
The extended silence proved that it worked. Each of the seven men and women, even Sha-me, was thinking beyond his or her familiar fear and grief. None of them had chosen this forty day baptism, but it was chosen for them by their Creator God. Yet, it was up to each one of them, him and her alone to nourish a new self.
Eventually Ham was the first to speak. "Father," he said humbly, "Tell us, what is the first step of this transformation to be?"
Noah had a ready response. "Ham, my son, God has revealed to me that we were born and have lived in exile. The world we are leaving, the world that is now being destroyed had departed so far from the will of God that He had to annihilate it. The evil that you had grown so accustomed to, would surely have destroyed you too. Each of us alone must seek and find the way back from this exile to our God. By annihilating the world we knew, He is removing all obstacles for us, so we may return to a place we have never been before, to God's pure and perfect new world. These days are precious."
"Do you understand why you must not look back?" added Noah in response to the confused expression on many faces. "To look back at the old world is to revive what God wants destroyed. Use these days to look inward for the image of God in you, to find that place from which humanity strayed. It will be familiar to you even though you have never been there. I will teach you how to speak to God and to listen that you may each become His child. He knows the place in His heart where He wants to take you. Yield yourself to Him, trust Him and He will guide you there." He said piercing Sha-me with his royal blue eyes.
Suddenly a gust of wind caused the rains to rush through the window splashing every man and woman in the ark with the water of baptism. Noah didn't flinch, with water dripping down his face and beard he continued by turning to Shem and Shem's wife and shouted, "Surrender to God's will, die to your old self, and be reborn!" Lazaria began to weep in fear and clutched Shem's arm tightly.
Then turning to the others he said, "Ham and Japheth my sons, each of you has yielded your will to mine when you helped me build this shelter, now yield yourselves to God to build a relationship with Him, to be able to hear the invisible God speak to you."
Coochie got the chills when she heard Noah say that. Japheth could sense it and clenched her thigh. She turned and said to Japheth, "It was easy to think of how horrid many of those people were. How they stole and lied, how they hurt each other and hurt me with their arrogance and pride, but now that they are to die, and only we will live, it feels like such an awesome responsibility. No longer do I feel better than they. I feel small and unworthy to live." Japheth hugged her and simply replied, "I know what you mean Coochie, me to."
The sound of rain hammering the roof above their heads became more apparent, so Noah's voice bellowed louder as he announced, "We will gather here every morning to begin our day in prayer and worship. Let us ask the Lord to create in us new hearts worthy to live in a purified world."
Then Noah turned to his wife, "Sha-Me, my beloved. Cease thinking about what you will eat and what the animals will eat. Let us look on this 40 days as a period of abstinence and fasting. By changing our diet, we will develop self control. Self control to help us to combat evil temptations that remove us from God's will. If our grandparents Adam and Eve had the self control to refrain from eating the forbidden fruit, we would not have had to endure such evil and death. We will show God, by NOT eating, that we want to obey Him and Him alone."
Sha-me's eyes grew wide. She had no idea of what fasting meant. Her whole life, and that of everyone she had ever known focused on food, on growing it, or finding it and cooking and eating. All day long she worked to feed herself and her family. What could Noah be saying? She looked over at her daughters, the wives, to see how they reacted to this bizarre statement. Coochie and Lazaria sat up straighter and looked at each other with curiosity as if Noah spoke a different language, but not in shock as with Sha-me. The young men, who never cooked, but only waited for the meals to come to them, had no comprehension at all of what Noah meant by fasting.
Noah said to Sha-me, "You said yourself that the food is limited. We know we must be in this ark for forty days of rain, but how much longer will we have to be here before the water subsides and we can be on land again? We must use this time to develop our hearts and minds, not to keep focusing on our bodies. By limiting our intake of food, we will at the same time be conserving our food and building up our true inner selves."
Sha-me knew Noah to be the wisest man in the village; that is why she fell in love with him hundreds of years ago, but she had never heard him speak like this before. It sounded to her as if God Himself was speaking to them through Noah.
Noah continued, "The Lord told me that twice a week, on the fourth day, and on the sixth day, we shall eat no food at all, only we can drink water to remind us that on the fourth day He called forth two great lights in the sky to separate the day from the night to be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years. On the fourth day of creation God made time. We shall not eat on the fourth day of every week. Let our empty stomachs remind us that God made the sun and moon, the seasons and time and be in awe of our Creator. He is worthy of our surrender to Him."
By this time, the wind died down to a refreshing breeze. The room and everyone in it were thoroughly wet, but the rains were falling straight down again onto what had begun to look like a thin pool of water above the ground. All that could be seen above the pool were trees and shrubs.
"On the sixth day of Creation," continued Noah oblivious to the disappearing earth outside, "God called the earth to bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals."
As Noah spoke, suddenly the lions roared, and the hyenas made their sounds to confirm that animals were created in the sixth day. "And on the sixth day," said Noah, "God also made our grandparents. He made humankind in His image, according to His likeness and He gave us dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. And He gave humankind every plant yielding seed that was upon the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit for food.
So on the fourth day God made the sun and moon to regulate time, and on the sixth day God made everything we have here in our ark, humankind and the animals. Let our hunger on the fourth and sixth days become for us teachers and friends to remind us that God made us for His purposes, not for our own. As the flood reminds us that what He made, He also has the power to destroy.
Let us refrain from thinking about the body and what it will eat, my dear Sha-me, even the animals will fast on the fourth day and on the sixth days.
This knowledge will humble us, it will remind us to respect our Creator. The days of our fear are over. Don't recall them. No longer are we threatened by the wicked and the violent who were aberrations of God's design. They thought themselves more powerful than God, and look what is becoming of them.
On the days we do not fast, we will continue to eat our plants, and our fruit and nuts, but let us eat them in moderation for the journey will be long and our rations are limited."
Then Noah turned his head and shouted, "Ham!" Ham sat up straight as if called out of a daydream and replied, "Yes father."
Noah said, "Never look back! I implore you to prepare yourself, and you Shem, and you Japheth; you are the remnant of humankind. While this baptism of the world means death, for you it means a second birth."
Ham looked at his wife, and then over to his brothers and their wives with new eyes. It had never occurred to him before how transforming this experience would be. Ham remembered the long hard weeks of building the ark. It was so exhausting and difficult that he didn't have time to think about what it was going to be like to live in it. He too despised the wickedness of the world. To kill everyone, to purge the world of wickedness, was for Ham very satisfying revenge. Meanwhile his father was still talking.
"Our mission is to return from exile. Should our minds wander backward to the dead and dying, let it only be to remind us of God's power over us, and His judgment." Noah was silent again for a few moments to listen for what God had to say to him next. He was actually trying to grab a fleeting thought. It had something to do with judgment. 'Got it!' Noah said to himself, and then out loud, "Ham, Shem, Sham-Me, Japheth, wives, "If you have anything against any one of us here, before nightfall, discuss it or simply let it go. Forgive that person for trespassing against you. Our ark is small and there is no room for conflict."
Noah sensed that his family did not understand, but continued for a little while longer anyway because he felt compelled to send this message.
"We are all subject to anger and fear, even evil, but we must resist these passions."
At this point the family started squirming. Most of them were gazing out the window at the driving rain, for indeed the speed of its descent had increased. The sky had gone from a dim flat white to having large patches of dark grey clouds.
Noah sensed that he had said enough for the first meeting. After-all they had to check on the animals. "Today" he said loud enough to be heard but less vehemently, "you witness water falling from the sky; you see our family alone among human life in this ark as safe and sound as you were in our mother's womb. As certain as my warning of rain came true, so certainly will you see us survive this catastrophe and live in a purified world.
How shall we create a brighter future in a new world? Let each of us develop a passion, not to leave this ark, or even that the rains will cease, but a deep desire to become a child of the living God, and to make a new, safe, and peaceful world.
With that everyone stood up to bring the meeting to a close.
Noah said firmly, "Wait! Let's thank God with all our might for this day of life, for saving us from the fate of everyone outside this sacred room." Sha-me grabbed Coochie's hand and nodded for her to hold Japheth's hand and to the others to form a circle.
And then something remarkable happened. Shem's wife Lazaria began to chant, "Alleluia..." over and over, one word alleluia. One by one each person joined in until they were all chanting together, harmonizing, low tones and high with perfect pitch.
Noah was amazed at the beauty of the sound and Lazaria's beauty. To listen to his family harmonizing swelled Noah's heart and brought tears to his eyes.
One by one a person dropped out, beginning with Lazaria until only Japheth was left chanting the last alleluia.
After that, no one was ready to walk away. They all sat still and quiet listening to the rain fall.
Coochie broke the silence by saying to Noah, "Father, I want to change, I truly want to become a child of God. Please show me how." Then Japheth added, "So do I father."
Noah looked at Coochie and Japheth and walked over to them. Coochie stood to receive Noah's fatherly hug, and Japheth hugged the two of them. One by one, Ham, Shem and their wives joined the group-hug repeating, "So do I father." Until the seven formed a human bouquet, tall and short ones, hairy and smooth, lighter and darker. Only Sha-me looked on from a distance to admire her children and her husband with tears welling up from her heart and spilling out of her big green eyes.