Our weaknesses are often masked by the trappings of power and influence. Such was true of Naaman. Commander of the army of the King of Aram, Naaman was accustomed to giving orders. People did what he said. He was a winner on the battlefield and his winning ways had earned him political clout. Naaman was a key player in Aram.
But there was something about Naaman that the troops never saw, something that most of the public would have never imagined. At the end of every day when Naaman removed the garments that spoke to his rank and laid aside the sword that spoke to his strength, the diseased condition of his skin was plain to see. Turns out Naaman the warrior was also Naaman the leper.
An Israelite girl who served Naaman’s wife mentioned a prophet in Samaria who could heal Naaman. Naaman wasted no time seeking the prophet out, but he used the means with which he was most familiar for getting something done. Naaman worked his political connections, securing a letter from the King of Aram to the King of Israel. Naaman backed up his diplomatic efforts with a handsome payoff – plenty of money and ten sets of clothing. He made his way to where the prophet was, accompanied by an impressive entourage.
It was all a disaster. The diplomacy backfired, causing the King of Israel to think that Aram was actually seeking to provoke a war. Once Naaman actually located the prophet Elisha, Elisha showed no interest in the clothes or the money – and barely any interest in Naaman himself. He didn’t come out to meet him. He simply sent a message telling Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times.
Naaman refused. He had a better plan. His plan was very similar to what the prophet had told him to do, but it allowed him to go home to cleaner rivers. Naaman was still trying his best to mange his life with his own resources. Giving direction came easier than trust.
With some gentle persuasion, Naaman finally submitted to the prophet’s word. And in that moment of obedient submission, Naaman was healed. “His flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy” (2 Kings 5:14).
Most of us invest a great deal of energy trying to fix our weaknesses. We work hard to manage them in such a way that no one else will notice them. We compensate for them by playing to our strengths. We mask our inadequacies with other obvious gifts, whether a stellar resume, a network of influential connections, or access to wealth.
Centuries before Paul wrote to the Corinthians about boasting in weakness, a Syrian by the name of Naaman lived what Paul would later articulate. Naaman’s efforts to manage his weakness got him nowhere. What God’s prophet asked Naaman to do was simply to face his weakness and submit it before God in an act of humble trust. Not an easy thing to do. To wade into the Jordan was to expose his skin, the very thing he tried so hard to conceal.
Our weaknesses are not something God asks us to fix. We are not encouraged to hide them or disguise them. Nor are we urged to flaunt them. But we are invited to face them and entrust them to our all sufficient and all powerful God. In our obedience we wade into the river, fully aware of our inadequacies, and God makes us whole. So go ahead and get your feet wet.
Lord Jesus, I know my weaknesses. I work hard at fixing them, hiding them, concealing them, compensating for them. What I resist doing is facing them and giving them to you. Grant me the courage to wade into the river where grace flows. Meet me there today in my weaknesses and make me whole, I pray. Amen.