Simple vs. Complicated

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 3

It’s a pretty well-known fact that one of the best ways to kill a good idea is to hand it off to a committee. Even if you don’t kill it, you’ll at least delay it long enough and probably change it enough that it won’t be nearly as effective as originally designed.

This is true in the government as well as in the corporate realm.

And it’s true for individuals.

We can completely complicate a simple idea by asking for input from too many people.

Or just one wrong person.

I believe obtaining wise counsel before making a major decision is absolutely biblical. I’ve made some really poor decisions that could have been avoided if I had only been humble enough to ask for honest input from a few godly friends.

But we need to be careful whose input we ask for and whose counsel we follow.

I believe the path to God and the healing we so desperately need is simple and direct. But that doesn’t necessarily equate to easy and fast. Most healing requires work, sometimes very difficult work, done repeatedly over a period of time.

In 2 Kings chapter 5, the directions the Israeli girl gave Naaman for his healing were simple. She said he should go see the prophet in Samaria.

However, the situation became complicated when Naaman followed his Master’s directions instead of the girl’s.

4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “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 of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 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.”

I’m sure Naaman needed the king’s permission to travel out of the country. After all, Naaman was the head of the king’s army and the king needed to know where he could find him if he needed him.

I’m also sure the king of Aram . . . as well as Naaman . . . wanted to let the king of Israel know that this was not an attack on their nation. Because that had happened recently . . . and would soon happen again. Maybe the silver and gold and clothing were to help ease the king of Israel’s mind.

But that note!!!

The king of Aram totally ignores the prophet in Samaria that the Israeli girl told Naaman to find. Instead he tells the king of Israel that HE is responsible for the healing of Naaman.

Granted, the king of Aram is probably used to dealing with other kings . . . not lowly prophets. And possibly Naaman is too. So this is more than likely pretty typical for what Naaman does when sent on missions for his king.

So this is probably much more comfortable for Naaman than going in search of a prophet of a God he didn’t know.

That may be why Naaman went along with his king’s plan. Because it was much more comfortable than what the Israeli girl told him to do.

I don’t know about you but my comfort zone is REAL comfortable. And I like staying there. Just like I like sitting in this leather chair by my fireplace while the snow flies outside.

Why would I want to venture outside of it?

But if we always stay in our comfort zones, we never grow. We never change. We never learn.

And we never heal.

I spent decades of my life in my comfort zone. I only took jobs I knew I could perform. I didn’t try any sport that I wasn’t pretty sure I could play well the first time. I only participated in board or card games I knew I could probably win.

I only did things I could comfortably handle. I wasn’t willing to take any risks. As I look back, I can see how totally insecure I was.

And I lived my life by default. I not only made decisions based on staying in my comfort zone, I also allowed the opinions and influences of certain other people determine the life I would live.

These people didn’t want to make those decisions for me. These people didn’t even know they were making those decisions for me. I just gave up my right to make decisions for myself. I really thought I was being a good daughter, a good wife, a good employee, a good parent, a good friend.

Handing off my life choices to other people was a much easier way to live life. I didn’t have to make decisions or take responsibility for them. All I had to do was somehow determine what the important people in my life wanted me to do and do that.

And if I failed, I had others to blame.

The king’s plan probably appeared to be easier to Naaman. He could stay in his comfort zone. And if something went wrong, he could always blame it on someone else.

He would go to Israel, hand the king of Israel the letter from his master, hand him the gifts he brought with him and soon Naaman would be on his way back home—a healed man. Sounded simple enough.

However, instead of being simple, it ended up getting complicated. Real fast.

How fast?

Faster than you can say Royal Wardrobe Malfunction!

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

Weather Alert

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 2

When something bad happens to us, it will make us better or it will make us bitter.

And the choice is ours.

So we’re told.

We’re also told that when life hands us lemons we shouldn’t settle for drinking their sour liquid that turns our mouth inside out. Instead we should use it to make delicious, thirst-quenching lemonade.

If only life was that simple, right?

Alabama is my home state. It’s where I was born, raised, married, built a home, had a baby, raised my daughter. My roots are there. So is my extended family.

On April 27, 2011, several towns, including a few in which members of my close family lived, were ravaged by devastating tornadoes. Left in their wake was unbelievable death and destruction.

Thankfully my family was safe. But I still wept as I watched the coverage on television in the safety of my Colorado apartment. My heart broke. I could not imagine what people felt as they crawled out of the rubble that was once their family home. Or what the survivors felt when they discovered their spouse didn’t make it. Or when people had loved ones literally snatched out of their arms, their lifeless bodies later discovered hundreds of yards away. I cannot imagine the pain and loss felt when the father of 13 children uses his body as a mortal shield to protect one of them, saving their precious life by sacrificing his own.

I can’t say for sure that I would make the choice to allow that experience to make me better.

I hope I would. I pray I would. That’s what I aspire to do.

But I don’t know.

My goal is to be like the young Israeli girl in Naaman’s household. But I’m not sure I’m that mature.

Let’s look at her part in this story.

2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” – 2 Kings 5:2-3

Here’s a child who’s been torn from her home and family and taken captive by her enemy. She is now a slave to that enemy. She has to serve them every day.

We have a modern name for it. We call it human trafficking. We preach against it. We raise money to protect the vulnerable. We work with those who are rescued to help them get their lives back to some kind of normalcy.

And that takes time. I’m sure they have a lot of issues to deal with. Issues like unimaginable fear. An inability to trust. Even shame, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness.

And I’m sure they have questions. Probably one main question. Why? Why did this happen to me? If God loves me and cares about me why did He allow it? At least, I think that’s what I would be asking.

This young Israeli girl probably dealt with those same issues and those same questions. And yet somehow she apparently came up with a satisfying answer.

I say that because she shows here that she still believes in God’s goodness. She still believes in His power and desire to heal. And she still believes in His concern … and hers … for people who don’t even know Him.

Even her enemies.

I’m not sure I would respond as well as she did. I like to think I would, but I’ve done much worse in much less difficult circumstances.

This young girl shows us that we don’t have to remain angry at God or our perpetrator when bad things happen to us. She also shows us that God is able to use us while we’re still healing to bring healing and freedom to others.

He’s able to use us IF we allow Him to. IF we don’t wallow in our self-pity. IF we trust Him to use our circumstances for good.

When bad things happen to us, we don’t have to lose our faith in God’s goodness.

Our faith won’t take away our pain. It doesn’t replace our losses. It can’t make everything okay. But when bad things happen to us, we have an opportunity to see life from a different perspective. IF we choose to.

If we allow ourselves to feel the pain and go through the process of healing, we can start to see our circumstances from an eternal perspective instead of a temporary one. A heavenly perspective instead of an earthly one.

God’s perspective instead of our own.

And from His perspective, things look a lot different than we see them.

Have you ever seen a complete rainbow? I don’t mean one that stretches from one spot on the horizon upward in an arc and down to another spot on the horizon. Those are gorgeous. But have you ever seen an entire rainbow?

A few years ago I was flying back to Denver after visiting with my family in Alabama. We had to take the long way home because of a huge storm front that was passing over the Rockies. We took off from Birmingham and went due west and later we turned right and went due north. By the time we hit Colorado the worst of the front had passed, but we still had a rough flight through the remainder of the storm. And Denver was still wet as we flew into the area.

I love to sit by the window because I love flying. I love taking off and landing (usually) and I love looking down on the earth and trying to figure out what state I’m flying over. This day I was extremely thankful I was sitting by the window because I got to see something I had never seen before. I got to see a complete rainbow.

And I learned something new. I learned that rainbows are not half circles. Rainbows are complete circles. From our perspective on the ground, the horizon prevents us from seeing the rest of the rainbow. I didn’t know that until this particular plane ride. And I still wouldn’t have known it if I hadn’t flown through the storm and looked out my window.

That’s true in life, too. If I don’t run away from the storms that come my way . . . and they are going to come my way . . . and if I am willing to keep my eyes open and look at things from a different perspective . . . a higher perspective than my own . . . I will learn things. I will learn to see things differently. Even things I’ve thought I’ve been right about for decades. Like the shape of rainbows.

Storms are not fun. They’re not fun to fly through on a plane and they’re not fun to walk through in our lives. But storms are a part of life here on planet earth. And God wants to use them to give us a new perspective. His perspective. He wants to use them to change us and to make us attractive to people who will one day go through similar storms.

He wants us to share our new perspective with others when they are going through situations similar to ones we’ve been through. He wants to use us to encourage them. To explain to them the process we went through. How we were able to heal. Who we turned to in our pain. Who we credit for our healing.

Just like this young Israeli girl. God wants to use us to point people to Him. To the healing He offers. Even people who don’t know Him.

Especially people who don’t know Him.

But in order to do this, we have to have gone through storms ourselves and we have to have healed from them enough to have gained a new perspective.

Thankfully this Israeli girl had.

And in some areas, I have too.

And because I have, I now know the real shape of rainbows.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

What’s Your ‘But’?

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 1

“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.” (New International Version, 2 Kings 5:1)

You know Naaman.

He’s your neighbor. Or your co-worker.

He could be your spouse. Your parent. Or even your child.

Or Naaman could be you.

He’s the person whose life looks great on the outside. People envy him. He’s successful, well-connected. He rubs elbows with high-profile individuals. He’s powerful, well-known in his community.

But he has a problem. A problem he keeps covered up. A potentially deadly problem.

Naaman has leprosy.

That’s probably not your neighbor’s issue. Hers could be alcohol. Your co-worker may be addicted to pain meds. Your spouse could have anger issues. Your parent may be a hoarder or your child an anorexic.

And then there’s you.

Naaman had a resume any man would want. He was powerful, successful, admired, respected. He was being used by God . . . although I don’t think he realized it at the time. He was at the top of his game. And everybody knew it. And probably every man around wanted a resume like that.

Until the last four words: “. . .but he had leprosy.”

What’s the ‘but’ at the end of your resume. We all have one.

No matter how successful we are, how far we’ve come, what we’ve overcome to get there—we all have a ‘but’.

Maybe yours isn’t as radical as a physical addiction. Maybe you just like to gossip. Maybe when the going gets tough, you go shopping.

Or maybe you just have to stay busy all the time. Can’t stand to sit still. Can’t bear to be quiet with just your thoughts.

Maybe you can’t stand to be alone. You have to be in a relationship, even if that relationship isn’t the best for you.

Whatever it is, your ‘but’ is holding you back. Keeping you from being all you were created to be.

It needs to be uncovered and dealt with.

Even though we can fool other people into thinking our life is great, going smoothly, we know deep down when something’s not right. Sometimes we’re not sure what the issue is and it takes some work . . . and possibly some help . . . to figure it out because it’s not always obvious.

And unfortunately, sometimes our life has to implode before we decide to deal with it.

Don’t wait for an implosion. They can be real messy. Trust me.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

Healing Naaman and Me – Introduction

I spent most Sunday mornings of my childhood in church. I attended Sunday school almost every week. And I learned all the major Bible stories.

I watched as my teachers played out the scenes on the flannelgraph. I memorized verses like “God is love”. I sang songs like “Zaccheus”.

By the time I was grown, I knew all the details of a lot of Bible stories. But they were just stories stored in my memory.

Fast forward a couple of decades.

I attended a women’s retreat in the north Georgia mountains, and I learned something new. At least it was new for me.

I learned the three-question Bible study method. It’s very simple. Not difficult to do.

But it was life-changing for me.

With this method you don’t just learn the facts from the scripture passage you’re reading. You have a way to uncover the truths that are there. The life lessons that you can use to make decisions today. And you also create application questions that help you determine how well you’re living out those truths from the scriptures.

I started using this Bible study method the next morning during my quiet time. I’ve used it ever since.

I have learned more from my study of scriptures in this last decade than in all the previous ones.

Now when I go back and study the Bible stories I learned as a child, I don’t just see the facts. I see truths. I find life lessons I can use to make wiser decisions.

When I teach the three-question Bible study method, I choose one of my favorite Bible stories to use as an example. I want to help people see how relevant the ancient scriptures are for our lives today.

God’s word is alive. And active. And it’s as relevant today as it was when it was written. There are truths and life lessons to help us live life today—as it should be lived.

That’s what I want to show you through this study of the healing of Naaman. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

I don’t have a flannelgraph. But through this blog over the next several weeks, let’s see if we can learn something new from this old story. Something we can apply to our lives today.

I’ll be back soon.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013