Is God Easy, or Hard?
June 28, 2012
Excerpt from 2 Kings 5:1-17
"Naaman became angry and went away, saying, 'I thought that for me Elisha 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!' 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'?"
Reflection by Molly Baskette
Have you ever had a terrible, terrible itch? It's not life-threatening, but it sure feels like it. It starts as a little twinge, a mosquito bite at the beginning of its bloom. You do what you do with itches. You scratch it.
But your scratch sets off a complex histamine response in your endocrine system, and soon the itch amps up. You scratch more, and more hormones are released, and now the itch has grown to epic proportions.
General Naaman had an itch like that. The Bible calls it leprosy but really it was more like psoriasis, because it didn't prevent him from active military duty. It just drove him completely bonkers, and everybody around him too.
He heard that the prophet Elisha had a gift with things like itches, only when Naaman gets to Elisha's house, Elisha won't even come out to see him. He sends out a servant, who says in a bored voice, "Elisha says you should go wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be made clean."
Naaman leaves in a fury. The fury of the proud. The fury of those whose power has availed them nothing. The fury of the itchy.
He is all set to go back to Syria and scratch some more, when another servant pipes up. "What's the big deal? If Elisha had asked you to do something hard, you would have done it, right? So why not do this easy thing that he's suggesting?"
When we come to God for healing, how we complicate things that are so simple. It seems as if we can't accept elegant solutions to what seem like very complicated problems. We know ourselves to be intensely complex creatures, steeped in drama. It will take years of therapy to cure us. It will cost tens of thousands of dollars. Sometimes, when I am sitting with someone who is in a lot of pain, I will ask them, "Have you prayed about it?" About half the time, they say no. They are embarrassed. That seems like too simple a solution, right? It can't possibly work.
The other half of the time, they say yes. They are usually lying. I know why they are lying - I have done it myself. They lie because they want to be the kind of people who pray to God when they have a problem, but they know themselves to be too complicated, and probably unworthy. They don't want to put God to the test, and be disappointed. They don't want to find out they are the one person God doesn't really want to heal.
God of Healing, give us a chance to notice something that is itching us. Maybe it is an unconfessed sin. Maybe it is a nagging doubt or anxiety. Maybe it is a vocational opportunity. You invite us to turn to You. Please convince us that maybe, just maybe, it really is that simple. Amen.
About the Author
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister at First Church Somerville UCC, in Somerville, Massachusetts.