Monday of the Third Week of Lent
But his servants came up and reasoned with Naaman. “My father,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.” So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 2 Kings, 5
I love this story. We don’t hear it very often because it’s one of those tucked away in the Lenten daily readings, but each Lent about this time, when I read it again, I take a breath. And I sit and I think about the story and realize how easily I forget to do the simple things.
Naaman is an army commander and he has leprosy. He’s captured a girl from Israel and made her a servant to his wife. The girl says that if Naaman would go to the “prophet in Samaria” he would be cured. So Naaman takes his horses and his chariots and “ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments” to go visit Elisha. The prophet sends out a message, “go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal…” Elisha doesn’t even come out, he just sends the message out.
So of course Naaman gets upset and says, I could have washed at home! I didn’t have to go through all this! He could have at least “move his hand over the spot.” He’s angry. His servants reason with him; he washes in the river and is healed. Simple.
It’s already mid-morning and I’m just now getting to the reflection. Other bits and pieces have pulled me away – I have students in crisis and appointments to clarify for later in the week; the phone rang at 7:40 this morning when I was barely conscious from someone needing counsel. Wise words? At 7:40 in the morning? I hadn’t even had my tea! Okay.
And after each bit, after each one-more-thing-to-remember, I’d come back to my corner and recognize the rushing tightness in my chest. Finally, I breathed and the tightness released.
Breathe. Calm. Stop.
That’s what I keep saying to myself this morning: breathe, calm, stop.
There’s an additional story in the midst of this Naaman adventure: Naaman goes to his lord and tells him what the girl had said about the prophet and his lord says, Go. I’ll send along a letter to the king of Israel. But when the king of Israel reads the letter, he figures that Naaman has come looking for a quarrel – he “tore his garments” and gets upset. But Elisha says, “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me…”
I wonder if we aren’t, many of us, jumping to conclusions or actions these days when we just need to breathe, pause, stop.
It’s the simple things that are hardest to remember. I know I’m not alone in the challenges and busyness of this time. So all together now: Breathe. Pause. Stop.
And then, like Naaman, give thanks for the healing.