At the beginning of this pandemic, for the first month or so, rainbows were everywhere in Montreal. “Ça va bien aller!” “It will be OK!” Children stuck inside drew them to put in windows, to remember, and to remind, that the isolation was not total. The world out there remained.
In the Biblical account of Noah, the rainbow appears at the end of the story, not at the beginning. Before the passage that appears in the lectionary for this week, which recounts God’s covenant with Noah, the days leading up to it are tallied with precision. Forty days and forty nights of rain. One hundred and fifty days of floodwaters covering the earth. Another two and a half months till the tops of the mountains appeared. Forty days more before Noah opened a window in the ark. Seven days more until the dove returned with an olive branch, seven days again until it did not return. After nine and a half months in the ark, Noah took off its cover. Finally, finally, after more than a year, the ground was dry, and God told Noah and his family, and all the creatures within, that they could leave the ark.
What incredible patience and trust that must have taken! They had been told only of the rain; they did not know how long the flood would last, or how long they would have to wait afterwards to set foot on dry earth again. Incremental sign after incremental sign came that the crisis was passing, but it took so very long for it to be past.
We are almost a year into our pandemic story, and the signs are there that the crisis is passing, but there is still an unknown time until it is past. These days, many of those window rainbows have disappeared. A few stubbornly remain, torn or forgotten. Rainbows have long been a symbol of hope. But some might feel that rainbows are too optimistic, too childlike, or even naïve, to be the right symbol for such a serious time. “Ça va bien aller!” no longer feels so cheerfully appropriate, as there are more and more of us for whom it is decidedly not going to be OK. Many have died, many are permanently changed. It is becoming clearer that our world is not going back to what it was before.
We are all tired. Our patience has long since worn thin. But perhaps we might take out our rainbows once more and look at them, not to imagine that everything is always going to be OK, but to remember that God is God even when things are not OK. God set his rainbow in the sky to mark a new beginning for humanity, one in which the trust of Noah is to govern. Even in catastrophe, God is with us and remembers us. God promises that catastrophe is not the end of the story. God’s creation remains.
This message was written by Beth Reed, the college administrator, for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community.
An image used in this post is from Nepas ledire — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 4.0.