Relationships are hard at the beginning. Getting to know each other, finding out each other’s faults and strengths. Yes indeed, relationships are hard in the beginning, like the one between humanity and God.
The story of Noah is at one level, a story of God and humanity getting to know each other better. As they do, they have to keep adjusting. People make choices that God doesn’t like (as in Eden with Adam and Eve) and God has to figure out what to do with this crazy creature. “The earth became corrupt before God” (Gen 6:11) Much like in Eden, it involved nudity, or at least, that’s what Rashi thought; he said the corruption was not just merely sexual immorality, but also idolatry, that is…boundaries were crossed.
Then again, the people really haven’t gotten any users’ manual for the world yet. God didn’t think they needed one, perhaps? In any case, how would they have known where the boundaries were? Did God forget to cover that detail? Was this another learning opportunity in the relationship? Did God have to think more deeply about what hadn’t been communicated? With interest in making this work, God decides to start all over again.
God tells Noah what to do and why, “”I am about to destroy them [humanity] with the earth. Make yourself an ark…” (Gen 6:13-14) The rains began.
In Chapter 8, two important moments occur. First, the idea of memory – God’s memory – is presented for the first time. “And when the waters had swelled on the earth one hundred and fifty days, God remembered Noah…” (Gen 8:1) Does that mean God had forgotten? Or perhaps God “remembers” the way we “remember the Sabbath”, that we honor and keep it close. God remembered humans and what that relationship meant to God. God has an “aha moment”, “Never again will I doom the earth because of man… nor will I ever again destroy every living being, as I have done.” (Gen 8:21) If people can control their impulses, God can too. If people can strive to find the good in the world, God can strive to find the good in people. God has developed some Self-awareness, which is a crucial element to succeeding at a relationship.
We have to be able to look at ourselves, so we can look at ourselves in relation to another. God’s promise not to upset the chess board and start over isn’t complete – God still needs Sodom and Gemorah to take another step away from the impulsiveness of destruction. But relationships are built step by step, even the one…no, perhaps especially the one between us and God.