Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.
Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”
Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents[b] of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”
As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”
When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”
But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.
Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”
I don’t know if you are sinking or swimming today, or if a tsunami of suffering has swept you away. I don’t know if you’re diving deep in search of more God, or don’t even want to dip your toes in this pool of faith.
But this I do know: we are transformed in the water. I am reminded of Eustace, boy-turned-dragon, meeting the great lion of Narnia, Aslan (God), in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Aslan appears to Eustace to save him from his dragon flesh and to restore his little boy body. The transformation is a three-step process: Eustace scratches off three layers of his scaly dragon flesh, but realizes his efforts “had been no good.”
“Then the lion said . . . ‘You will have to let me undress you.'”
And so Eustace, despite the fear of the pain, lay down and let Aslan claw his dragon skin off:
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off–just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times . . . And there I was smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me–I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on–and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone . . . ” pgs.474-475, The Chronicles of Narnia
I wonder about a Lent in which we didn’t try to abstain from caffeine or m&m’s, but rather allow a layer of ourselves to be removed? I wonder if I have a Naaman heart, full of pride and entitlement? Or if I’m willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to be healed, be new again? I wonder about a Lent filled with enough desperation to allow the pain of God’s healing hands? To allow new skin? A fresh look, perhaps? Or a new look at life without scales over my eyes?
I wonder what layer, what skin, there is to lose as I venture into these waters. Where may He be leading, and what does He see that needs removing? I will be praying for the will to let Him remove old dragon skin so that I may, too, plunge into delicious waters of healing.
Forward, into the waters! Happy, healing, scale-removing Lent.