ALIVE: Chapter Ten, Gestation

Every birth requires a gestation period. It was no less true for the rebirth of each member of Noah's family. The day after their first spiritual gathering and for every day after that the family was summoned at sunrise by Noah to worship the Creator God. Without church or synagogue, without rabbi, priest or pastor, without the Bible, the Torah or the Creed, without Jesus, Sha-me and her children were in the process of growing the seed of salvation into new persons. God was the Father and the womb of the wooden ark was the mother.

Looking back, this second week may have been the saddest of them all for it was the week that outside of the ark all of humankind and perhaps the wildlife too tottered between hope and despair.

The five year old son of Coochie's brother cried, "Papa, when will the water stop falling from the sky?"

"I can't tell you my child." He replied sympathetically, "I neither know how it started, nor when it will end. We must wait and hope it stops soon." The boy climbed into his father's lap. The shelter of cave was less and less a refuge as the ground grew more and more saturated with water. The fearful father wrapped his arms around his small son wondering if he should take his family to the ark where his sister went, but decided he wasn't ready to face her after all the ridicule he flung at her and her crazy husband. His wife put a stop to his musing when she entered the cave with a few carrots in her hand.

"This was all I could find." she sighed, "I'm afraid that food is scarce. How I long to be able to start a fire! I'm so cold."

"Thank you wife. Come, sit by us; I will keep you warm."

On the top of a faraway cliff a stream of frantic men and women were jumping to their deaths. A cacophony of screams shot up from the deep and could be heard for miles around. So many days of steady rainfall with no end in sight, and the dark cloudy skies were more than the suicidal could stand. These were the panicking men and women who were strong enough to scale the slippery mountain. Their busted and bloody bodies littered the rocky floor below. Heavy rains washed the dead bodies clean and sent streams of polluted water into the bulging river south of the valley of the dead.

No one had a taste for murder any more, so great was the wet violence from above. The days of thievery had ended too. No one cared a whit for material possessions. There was nothing to lie about, and only the most lascivious still tried to eek out a feeling of physical pleasure from fornication. Old lovers grew to despise each other's bodies. Evil and wickedness were widely being conquered by water and the devastating circumstances that accompanied non-stop rain.

All that remained of the God-damned world were fear and anger. Coochie's brother's scene was common in families with young children to protect. Most, if not all parents and grandparents clung together to comfort the children and lift each other from despair. The most optimistic still believed the rains would end and they did everything they could to conjure up a sense of normalcy and hope that there would be a bright and dry future.

Noah's brothers, sisters, and cousins, who were also grandchildren of Methuselah and Enoch, prayed for relief. They came together with those who knew there was a God and that He caused the rain and could make it end. They begged God to save them and the earth from the deluge of water. They reminded Him of the innocent suffering animals. Those inclined to crying balled like hungry babies. These were the virgins of this original day of reckoning who were caught without oil in their lamps, those who said to God, "But Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your Name? To whom He answered with silence, "I never knew you." Before the rains came, they knew of God, but never made the effort to worship and obey. Their desperate and pathetic cries dissolved in wet air.

Inside the ark, the first fast day as proclaimed by Noah was difficult for other reasons. Instead of empty hope Noah's family had empty stomachs. Instead of begging for salvation of their flesh, they were fighting their flesh for the benefit of their souls. Lazaria had been hungry before, but not in the presence of baskets of nuts and raisins. To deny her stomach was harder than she imagined it would be. She had to keep reminding herself that God, through Noah, asked her to fast for a good reason. As a stone thrown into a pond sends out concentric circles, so did her growling stomach send out rings of weakness and emptiness. As she sat alone in the bird-room contemplating reasons for her fast, a voice spoke to her. It said, "Say to your stomach, 'My food is to do the will of God.' Lazaria, you need a strong faithful will more than you need food. Sing your alleluias child, subdue your flesh." Gradually Lazaria's weakness turned to meekness as she chanted her alleluias in a soprano voice softly, thinking only of her desire to please Noah and his God.

Fasting was not so pure and simple for Ham. He had always been a strong-willed and irreverent boy. With piercing blue eyes, a square jaw, and straight black hair, Ham was the most handsome man of the family even though he was no taller than his short father. Yet this situation was enough adventure for him, and Ham wanted to do whatever he could to prepare himself for the new world. Ham understood the practical reason for fasting, to conserve their food. So on this first day he found ways to keep busy. The ark that seemed so large when he was building it, felt uncomfortably confining. After the morning prayer-gathering Ham walked from one end to the other back and forth, over and over, up and down from deck to deck starting at the top where he got drenched and noticed that the cisterns were already spilling over. On the bottom level he stopped to milk the cows and goats. Ham tried to explain to the animals who came to him to be fed as they had done every day before why they would not eat that day. After delivering the milk to the ladies for cheese-making, he continued his rounds. The only room Ham would not enter was the dry store room where the food was kept. The temptation was too great for him. In the afternoon Ham took a long nap. Mostly he thought and dreamed about what he would eat the next morning.

Ham's wife, Aurelia, and Coochie grew closer than sisters. They both had left sisters behind and leaned on each other to fill the void, the one looking at the other as in a mirror searching for the familiar and for approval. The two young ladies had known each other for as long as they could remember but they had been too busy gathering and cooking, cleaning and sewing to play together. Both were still not much older than children. Since humans lived for centuries, commitment to marriage was typically reserved for the second century of life at the earliest. To marry young men in their thirties was unheard of. When they told their parents that they were going to marry the sons of Noah, both sets of parents were astonished. Coochie's father tried to forbid the marriage. But Coochie was particularly strong-willed and referred to Lazaria and Aurelia who were also young girls. Coochie promised to avoid having children until she was much older so her father conceded, knowing that he was no match for his strong willed daughter. Aurelia, simply said goodbye to her surprised mother and father and walked away from her home without an argument on the day she entered the ark with Ham. Aurelia came from a family of twenty-five children and was not missed.

Both Coochie and Aurelia had smooth swarthy skin and long wavy brown hair and they were both devoted to their young husbands because Ham and Japheth were different than the other men, especially the older men who pursued them. They admired Lazaria for her beautiful voice, but Lazaria seemed to prefer to be alone over their company. They didn't really understand Noah's talk about a God, and they were both afraid of how their adventure was turning out. They missed their families and had no idea of the finality of it all, the complete and total destruction of the world. They talked to each other about why God would kill everyone but them, in fact they couldn't believe it when their husbands told them, so they played along, sure that it wasn't true. But now that it had been raining for so long, they were less sure.

After a week of confinement in the ark Aurelia panicked, she became claustrophobic and wanted to break out. In fact, Ham caught Aurelia trying to lift the locking bar. He pulled her away and she screamed that she couldn't breath and wanted to get out. Ham held her tight until she stopped crying and then took her up to the roof where they sat in the rain until Aurelia was ready to go beneath and get dry.

In her quiet times, while laying in bed waiting for sleep to come Aurelia became most anxious. She had to fight with herself to believe that she and Ham would make it through the rains and that they would live again in a new world. It seemed like such a preposterous situation. Aurelia had never seen a boat so she didn't believe that a house could float on top of water. Yet, Noah told them that God promised him that indeed they would survive, so she had to believe or die. There was no other choice. She couldn't see herself waiting for death every minute of the day. Even the people outside in the rain didn't yet believe that they would die. Aurelia realized in those wakeful hours that she needed to change her mind. She had to start thinking differently. If her thoughts represented who she was as a person, she in fact had to become a different person. So she simply begged God to please help her to believe in Him and in His plan, and to help her fast and pray as Noah did. Night after night this same scenario ran through her mind until sleep took over.

The morning prayer gatherings seemed to calm the fears of the young ladies, but they didn't know why or how. The first fasting day was particularly difficult for these two young friends because they complained of their hunger to each other which made it worse. But they also kept each other from cheating on this first day. Fear of what Noah would do if he found out was more threatening to them than starvation. If Noah's God could make it rain on all those innocent people, they thought, imagine what He would do to them if they disobeyed.

Japheth had a secret that he had been keeping from his father and brothers for three years. He killed a man in cold blood. When he thought back on it, Japheth was convinced that this murder was for the right reason. The man caught him stealing and would have told his father. Japheth believed that if he just did away with the man, his father would never find out. Japheth wondered if he too deserved to be outside the ark with the other violent men. Then he asked himself what the difference was between his murder of one man and God killing everyone? Besides, he thought, if he had to do it all over again he would.

Every day and night people tried to enter the ark. At first it was women who politely knocked and yelled for admittance. The proud independent menfolk mostly tried to construct their own make-shift shelters, not yet knowing that they needed a boat. These initial, relatively polite, visitors could barely be heard by the ark's residents because the rooms they inhabited in were far from the door and many loud animals lay between the family and those who were entreating to come in. One by one the women eventually realized that no one would open the door so she would walk away to search for other shelter.

When he was formed in his mother's womb, God had written on Shem's genes the same poem He had written when He formed Noah, and Lamech and Methuselah before him. Shem loved God with every fiber of his being. Shem prayed without ceasing. When he would awaken in the night words of awe and praise immediately came to his mind without Shem stopping to think. He seemed to know instinctively that God was watching over him and guided his steps. Several times in his young life Shem had been delivered from destruction. One such time a lion cub wandered into the village and pounced on him. Shem wrestled with the lion and found strength he didn't know he had. Lying on the ground with the lion on top of him, a rock rolled into his hand and with all his might Shem hit the lion between the eyes and knocked him out. Shem crawled out from under the angry cub and hit him over and over again until the cub's heart stopped beating. It was from that experience that Shem understood what a dangerous world he lived in and how much he needed protection from above. God guided Shem in and out of danger enough times to teach him about good and evil. Long gone were the days that God wanted to shield his children from the knowledge of good and evil. Now it was a matter of showing them the difference and allowing them to choose. Shem was a kind boy who thrived on praise from his father. He remembered the moment when he first realized that Noah's God was his God too.

Shem and Noah, prayed together often when Ham and Japheth were busy hunting or carousing with the other young men in the village. Noah taught Shem to tell God what was on his mind and to ask Him for favors. What Shem wanted most of all was to have known his great grandfather Enoch. Although death was rare in those days of five to nine hundred year life spans, Shem had known men and women who died. When he learned that there was a man, even in his own family who simply went to God without ever knowing death Shem wanted to know how that happened and where he went, and what his relationship with God was like. So to speak with Enoch was Shem's prayer. Every night before he fell asleep Shem asked God for the ability to meet Enoch and speak with him. This prayer became a ritual for Shem that lulled him to sleep year after year. One night, in his twelfth year, Shem had a dream in which grandfather Enoch spoke to him. Enoch told his young grandson that he should be patient and that all would be revealed to him in time, but he wanted Shem to know that God had indeed heard his prayer. Shem awoke with this vision still clear in his mind. It was then that he knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was real and heard his prayers. That was the moment Shem realized beyond a shadow of doubt that the God of his fathers was his God too.

When Noah told his sons to find wives for themselves, Shem knew instantly that he wanted Lazaria to be by his side for the rest of his life. Convincing her was not so easy. They were both very young, much too young for marriage and children. Lovely Lazaria with her angelic voice was accustomed to fending off wanton older men. Shem knew that he couldn't use the same forceful tactics of the older men's style. He simply befriended her. One day when Lazaria strolled by the site where the ark was being built, she approached Shem and asked what he was doing. Shem seized the opportunity to put his tools down and take a break. He walked her over to a nearby tree where they sat and Shem explained to her everything his father had taught him about the Creator God, and about good and evil. Lazaria was fascinated. She had always sensed an invisible guiding presence, but had no idea that it was real. The concept of invisibility carried her off to a whole new world of thought. After that first visit, Lazaria came around often and brought food for Shem. In the evenings they went for long walks getting to know each other, their hopes and fears. It wasn't until the ark was near completion that Shem asked Lazaria to marry him and to enter the ark with his family. By then Lazaria was enthusiastic about making the ultimate commitment to Shem and to his God. The day the family entered the ark was their wedding day.

Sha-me tried hard to interpret the sounds of her growling stomach as love-songs to God. Every time she was tempted to sneak into the storeroom and grab a handful of nuts, it was if an invisible wall stopped her. She knew that the wall was her will and she was relieved to discover that at her core her need to obey her husband and His God was stronger than her need to eat. That was because she believed that obedience to the fasting rule in the end was the safest and easiest way to survive the enormous power of death that surrounded her. Sha-me fought thoughts of food by thanking God for saving her life, and the lives of her three sons. She did not think that she was better or holier than all of the people who would soon drown. Sha-me loved life after all. She loved her husband for his uniqueness and his wisdom, and she looked forward to the day when her son's wives would bring forth babies to care for and to fill her days with laughter.

Noah's passion for the new age, to live in a world purged of evil and wickedness propelled him through the rainy skies higher and higher until in his heart and mind he reached the throne room of God. There he would sit unaware of time conversing with his Maker. There Noah stood in an infinitely deep baby-blue light-filled space, in total peace and comfort and in awe of God's power and majesty. Noah knew he would not be allowed to stay there. He had to return to his body in the ark for most of the long wet days and nights managing his crew, but he savored every moment of ecstasy. He never could make it happen on his own. It seemed that God had to invite him to that place, which he did often during those months in the ark.

God trusted Noah; He trusted Noah not to question His devastating decision. He trusted Noah to lead his family into righteousness, who in most ways were not better than the damned. For God, Noah was the link between the world that had recklessly fled from His will in the beginning, and a brand new world where His aspirations for humanity could have a fresh start. This Great Primal Lenten period would be crucial for human transformation. Never before had He been willing to nurture man through a process of repentance. With only seven souls to work with, and with faithful Noah in the lead, God had great expectations for the restoration of His world. God wanted to know if metamorphosis could be as satisfying to Him, and even more effective than creation. Noah wanted to know if his family could ever experience God as he did.