I did a cartoon this morning about Noah’s ark since it’s coming up in the news lately. Plus because the new Noah movie coming out with Russell Crowe I suppose.
When I was growing up I was fascinated with Noah’s ark. I loved animals. I loved the bible stories. My dad read a lot of books about Noah’s ark and other archeological interests around the Old Testament. I even remember reading “Chariots of the Gods” and watching documentaries on all these archeological and historical curiosities. I even heard stories something like “Whale Caught Off Coast of Greenland With Man Found Inside Still Alive After 2 Days!” Or how dinosaur bones are a hoax. Or how dinosaurs were killed by the flood. I was very interested in these kinds of things.
One summer my mom and dad and their five kids squeezed us all into a Datsun station wagon and drove from Toronto to Los Angeles to see my dad’s family. On the way we stopped off at the Grand Canyon. In one day I walked from the rim all the way down to the Colorado River then back up again. On the way down dad was showing me the lines in the rock where Noah’s flood rose to, which explained why there were sea fossils in the rock at these levels. It all made sense to me and made my belief in the bible sure.
Then I read a book sometime during my teens that the literal translation of Jonah and the whale is not whale, but fish. He was swallowed by a great fish! Well, that didn’t make sense to me. Apparently I could figure a man could live inside an oxygen-breathing mammal that came to the surface for air, but not a fish. That made no sense at all.
Then in college when I learned about the synoptic gospels and how they are radically different from each other and John radically different from all of them. Wait a minute!
Then in seminary when I read “The Silence of Jesus” by Beech and my whole belief in the bible as the inerrant word of God crumbled forever.
In each of these moments I remember the cold fingers of fear wrapping themselves around my mind. When I think about it now, I know why these were horrible experiences. It’s because I was afraid of the fear. The fear is terrifying!
But what was really going on? I think it is that I was trying to protect something that was important to me. In every case it was that the bible was accurate and historically true, and this was a shield for my beliefs and therefore a support for my faith. My fear was if the historically truth was removed, then this would threaten my beliefs and undermine my faith. What I found though was when I let things go I knew were no longer true, what was really true to me still remained. I’ve come to learn that what is most central, important and true to me does not need lies in order to remain.
Strange, isn’t it? It takes so much effort, so much anxiety, to sustain one lie in order to protect our more central one.
I used to concede my own independence and allow others to tell me, with their stories, what is true. Now, instead, I have learned to respect my own conclusions about what is true and measure all stories against this. I respect the bible and its stories and ideas now far more than I used to because I respect it as it is, not as I want or need it to be.
It is a healthier and happier way to live, and fearless.