But Naaman’s 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’?” - 2 Kings 5:13 (NRSV)
Naaman was a highly capable person. He had everything: power, prestige, wealth, and success.
He also had an irritating little problem he couldn’t solve for himself: a skin condition that was very slowly eating him alive. Perfection—save for one terrible, shameful, persistent problem.
On a tip, Naaman traveled to Israel to seek the help of the prophet Elisha. But he was offended when Elisha told him to go wash in the Jordan River and be healed. “We have better rivers than that in my country!” huffed Naaman.
The real problem was that what Elisha told him to do was too easy. If Elisha had asked Naaman to do something like topple a nearby kingdom, no problem. Because that was his m.o.—doing hard stuff using his own power, smarts, and resources.
Getting into the waters of the Jordan would mean letting Someone Else do for him. Do for him what he could not do for himself. It was humbling and he didn’t like it much.
For Naaman, as for many high-achieving, accomplished people, such receiving was what was hard.
Receiving grace can be hard.
There is much we can achieve and accomplish in this life by our own good efforts. But some of the most important things in life happen not with another victory, but with a surrender.
Like letting ourselves be loved.
Sometimes, Friend, the hardest thing is not scaling a high mountain, riding a bike cross-country, or rafting a wild river, but receiving and trusting your gracious love. Enable us to be good receivers. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony's "Weekly Meditation" and "What's Tony Thinking?" at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.