Noah had never built a boat before. I don’t know if he asked “Why me?” or if he wondered how he’d ever do something he didn’t know anything about, but he knew that he didn’t really have a choice. It was build it or swim. And it probably took him a very long time. It was an ark after all, not a skiff made from the log of a fallen tree, but built in a desert region from gopher wood, whatever that is. I like to imagine Noah hammering away while looking around at the other men his age, all of them spending their retirements at the their condos at the Red Sea, taking weekend trips through the dunes on their camels, enjoying their grandchildren gathered at their feet while their concubines brought them lemonade. I imagine he wasn’t happy with the whole idea of spending his golden years building a boat larger than a football field. But he’d been asked to do it. And so he got together the tools, the boat designs, maybe tried to get a little help from family members or even cursed the sun when it was too hot to work. He did it. It was what he was supposed to do.
We all have a boat to build. It might be small or large, and it may not even be the boat we want to build, but we are the only ones who can build it. There are many times I think to myself “This isn’t how my life was supposed to turn out.” I look at the tidy little moms who have cookie parties and serve on the PTA, whose husbands never run out of clean underwear, whose yoga class leaves them with that yogiish glow, whose pictures inside their best-selling book’s jacket shows neatly plucked eyebrows and clear-skinned smiles. I feel angry that someone else seems to have gotten my life. But then after discussing Noah’s task with a friend, he asked me, “What is your boat?” And I had to wonder if my messy life is really intelligent design.
If this is my boat, I really don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have the proper tools, people surrounding me won’t cooperate, and I have a huge knot in my shoulder muscles that makes me tired. Day after day my boat looks more unseaworthy. The fact that this particular boat is my boat doesn’t seem fair.
But in order to keep building, I have to imagine the purposes. Maybe I’m meant to receive a few knocks so I can feel compassion for those who also get knocked around. Maybe I’m simply to raise sons who are brave, responsible and kind men. Maybe as an educator I was meant to help teach kids in hopes they can feel capable and relevant. I’m not sure. Maybe I won’t find out what my boat is until I’ve built it. But like Noah, I can build hoping something will come of it if I do my best with what I’ve been asked to do, and that is to simply build a boat.
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