So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, ‘I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?’ He turned and went away in a rage. But his servants approached and said to him, ‘Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash and be clean”?’ So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean. (5:9-14)
How often do you hope and pray for something with the ‘correct’ answer already in mind? In my experience, this is a pretty normal human mindset. It’s a way to deal with uncertainty and a means to manage the unknown.
Yet, as much as it may offer a sense of control in unsettling circumstances, expecting a particular response runs the risk of missing out on what is sought. It also sets the stage for immense disappointment. Naaman does just this in today’s passage from 2 Kings. He is expecting a response from the prophet that did justice to his status as the commander of the army of the king of Aram. He is accustomed to the high favor that accompanies his success and might as a warrior. And so, when his sincere desire and plea for healing is met only with a servant delivering simple instructions, he becomes blinded by his disappointment. Instead of gratefully fulfilling the prophet Elisha’s directives, Naaman rages over the lack of reception and storms away ranting about the superiority of the rivers of his homeland.
If it were not for the nuanced and courageous reproach of his own servants, Naaman may have continued to suffer from leprosy to the end of his life. Luckily, they are able to help him see beyond his own expectations. They are able to help him to see the way in which God is moving in his life. It is thanks to these servants that Naaman is able to receive the gift of healing that is offered.
Today I give thanks for the people in my life who act as these servants; opening my eyes to the ways in which the Spirit is moving in the world and challenging me to move past my own presuppositions. Who are the ones that do this for you? Who do you serve in this capacity?
Sarah Brock is a Postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Massachusetts and lives in Boston.
Image: By Photo: Andreas Praefcke (Own work (own photograph)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons