We really never know how close we are to the perfect storm of everything going entirely right, and that’s the kicker, isn’t it?
Because I keep journals, I can sit in puddles of my words and know how I felt and how things worked out. Some days I’d rather never revisit. When I do look back, I get the urge to give my younger self a soft shoulder squeeze and whisper, Miracles were right on the doorstep, the night we cried ourselves to sleep.
Twenty-eight-year-old me might have listened if I told her that miscarriages really do leave you more fertile.
Forty-five-year-old me could have used a nice head’s up that the dream job will only last a season, but that it will strip me of idols and set me a different kind of free.
Oh. My. Heart. How very much I would want 36-year-old me to know that just when you think grief will literally steal your breath and take you down, it reinvents your life.
I just don’t know if she’d have believed it.
But we need other people’s stories to recognize that God is able and willing and good — when our own situations are pressed too close to our faces to be decoded.
Enter Naaman the Leper. Bobby-pinned inside 2 Kings chapter 5*, there is a phenomenal underdog story of a man with military success and regal influence who has this one nagging problem holding him back from trusting the God of Israel. It is one problem but it’s wearing a bunch of extra layers, like a lot of my problems do. He needs healing —> but first, he needs a healer —> but before that, he needs someone to tell him that there is someone who can help or some God who is interested. But, even before THAT, Naaman needs to name his need in front of a person with power. In his case, it is the King of Syria. See what I mean about the layers?!
“Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.” (2 Kings 5:1).
Full-stop. A leper. Now that is a disgusting and complicated problem to have. Leprosy made people unclean spiritually and abhorrent in society at that time. However, even with that challenging disadvantage (and likely because of it) scripture says that Naaman persisted. He dared to peel back the layers of his problem, so God started lifting them from him.
I really encourage you to go and read the story for yourself in 2 Kings 5 because it’s awesome, but for today I want to pivot to what I think this story has to do with us.
Naaman does not know what it’s going to take to be rid of this leprosy, but he knows how to point himself in the right direction. That is what faith looks like on a human.
To him, the God of Israel was someone else’s answer. I believe this is why there were so many layers to his problem. It took a wild international field trip and many strange acts of faith for Naaman to see the God who had orchestrated his entire story for the pleasure of healing him and becoming his God.
But first, there was some water to move closer to, and the man of God, Elisha, to encounter. Naaman’s whole journey to Israel was about meeting Elisha, but being told to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River was very counterintuitive to Naaman. Kind of reminds me of something Jesus would recommend. Matthew Henry’s Commentary (if you have time, it’s really cool) points out that Naaman was actually offended at the very thought that the Jordan River had some kind of superior salvific power. He needed a shove. Thank God he wasn’t alone.
“But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you,‘W a s h, a n d b e c l e a n’?”” 2 Kings 5:13 ESV
Splash, splash. Splash, splash. Splash, splash. SPLASH.
This story is an intensely personal reminder to me (translate that God knocking on my skull) that I have been too close to my own story lately. Too tangled up in it to see how God is lifting layer after layer of the things that burden my sense of belief. I bet I’m not the only one in need of someone else’s story of God breaking through to a normal high functioning but dysfunctionally sick person with his good plan to heal him.
What does that look like? For Naaman it looked like moving methodically toward hopeful answers with every tool in his tool box engaged, deciphering the unknown –one situation at a time.
Maybe you need Naaman’s story today because your’s is too close to your face. Or maybe you need to borrow one of mine. What if your miracle, that one thing you think about daily that has started to feel like your only real struggle, is one “splash” from the next open door?
The only faith you need today is the faith required to keep moving in the general direction of water.