It’s All About Me

There are so many great stories in the Old Testament. The story of creation. Moses parting the Red Sea. My namesake Judith chopping off the head of Holofernes. God uses all of them to reveal His great love for us and His unfolding plan for our salvation. One of my favorite stories is about Naaman and how God cured him of leprosy. I’m drawn to his story, not because it makes me feel good to read it, but because it makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s a good bet that when a story from Scripture makes me uncomfortable it’s because God is trying to get something through my thick skull. And with Naaman, I think I know what it is.

You’ll find the story of Naaman told in II Kings, chapter 5. Here’s the gist of it. Naaman is an army general in ancient Syria. He’s got everything going for him—he’s rich and strong and powerful. His career is going great. The only downside to anything about Naaman is the fact that he has leprosy, which in those days was devastating both physically and socially. Even so, he was a big deal in Syria. Living in his household was a little Jewish girl who had been captured in an army raid and who served as a maid to Naaman’s wife. She wanted her master to see the prophet Elisha whom she knew could cure his leprosy. So Naaman wrote to the king of Israel and was invited to come and see the prophet. After the long journey, Naaman arrived in court and Elisha sent word to him telling him to wash 7 times in the Jordan River and he’d be cured.

This really made Naaman mad. To begin with, he was a great general and this prophet couldn’t even be bothered to come outside and greet him personally? Naaman thought he’d get his cure when Elisha would pray for him and lay his hands on him. But no. Elisha had the audacity to tell him to bathe in this muddy, filthy little backwater creek they called the Jordan. Weren’t the mighty rivers of Damascus more beautiful, more powerful and more suited for a general like himself?

So in his anger Naaman got ready to leave. But his servants stopped him from going. They said if Elisha had asked Naaman to do something really difficult or extravagant that he’d have done it. Naaman agreed. Really sir, they told him, all you’ve got to do is go wash in the river. Naaman thought it over and did as he was told. And sure enough, his leprosy disappeared. He got the cure that he’d desperately longed for, but the way he went about it is what reminds me of my own sins and shortcomings. Sometimes when God blesses me I still find a reason to be unhappy with it. With Him. I think, “God, this isn’t the way I thought it would be.” When I had imagined Him answering my prayer, I had imagined Him doing it MY way. And when I do that, I limit God. Even though God alone can know what is best for me, I want him to bless me on MY terms. I want the prophet to come meet me personally, like Naaman did. I want God to bless me in the way that I expect to be blessed, in a way that will honor and exalt me. I don’t want to bathe in a muddy creek even though that’s exactly what I might need to do in order to be blessed. Me and Naaman? We understand each other.

Naaman and I are proud. We want to be treated like we’re important. We want a showy cure, something we think is “worthy” of us. What we have to learn is humility. For me, this is a daily lesson. Sometimes the greatest healings and most profound blessings come to us in the simple, straightforward “stuff” of our daily lives: our jobs, our families, our friends, and all the small ordinary challenges of every day. Too often we expect the Lord’s blessings to be big and dramatic: we win the lottery, we find a cure for cancer, we are awarded the Nobel Prize. But God uses the most mundane things and ordinary processes to perform His great miracles. He creates the universe with His word. He uses spittle and mud to cure a blind man. His breath imparts the Holy Spirit. Water cleanses us of sin in Baptism. Bread and wine become His precious Body and Blood.

Naaman reminds me not to try and put God in a box. My prayers (and my life) should reflect humility and gratitude. When God blesses me every moment my heart and my hands must be open to accept His gifts. Naaman’s little housemaid knew that. She knew that if her master asked, he’d be cured. May my heart be like her heart.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you,”
— I Peter 5:7

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