When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said,
‘Cursed be Canaan,
the lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers!’ (Genesis 9:24-25)
The story of Noah ends awkwardly and with pain. We have known Noah as a righteous man, a man of faith. We saw him named righteous when the world was filled with wickedness. We saw him faithfully build an ark, dutifully care for the animals, trustingly look for a sign that the waters were receding, and patiently wait for God’s word to leave the boat. We saw his first reaction to being on dry land – a sacrifice of gratitude.
And now, after three full chapters of Noah’s story, we end with drunken cursing and blessing. The last words we have from Noah include blessing two of his sons, refusing to name the third (essentially cutting him off from the inheritance), and cursing his grandson to perpetual slavery. It is an undignified, unholy, un-Noah ending to his story.
I’ve wrestled a lot in the past few days with this ending. I still have a lot of questions. But at the very least, the ending of Noah’s story reminds me that all our stories contain moments of holiness as well as wickedness. Noah was not perfect and neither are we. Noah lived his whole known life as a righteous man, but even he knew sin. Even the best of us have chosen to walk down the wrong path and given in to selfish desires. And Noah was among the best of us.
A couple years ago, there was a lot of press around the release of Mother Teresa’s journals. Setting aside the fact that she never wanted them published (and her wishes should have been respected), the shock to many was the periods of dryness and doubt she experienced. For some reason, we had expected perfection from Mother Teresa. The lives of the saints (as well as ordinary sinners) are filled with evidence of the Spirit’s work as well as evidence of our resistance to it. Mother Teresa, Noah, and all who have walked the road of faith before us are examples to us. They are examples, not of perfection, but of faith. Faith in the God who cleanses and forgives, who loves and redeems doubting Teresa, drunk Noah, and even me.