Healing Naaman and Me – Application Questions

Here are some questions to help you apply this Bible story to YOUR life.

Part 1 – What’s Your ‘But’?

2 Kings 5:1

  • What’s on my resume?
  • What characteristics or accomplishments am I expecting to shield me from some of life’s issues?
  • What’s on my resume that I try to hide?
  • How is the real me different from the image I project?
  • What’s the “but” at the end of my resume?

Part 2 – Weather Alert

2 Kings 5:2-3

  • What bad things have happened to me?
  • How did I respond/react to them?
  • Which of them am I still angry about?
  • When has God used me to lead someone to His healing?
  • When have I allowed life events/issues to cause me to doubt God’s goodness?
  • How well am I doing my “job” at my job?

Part 3 – Simple vs. Complicated

2 Kings 5:4-6

  • Whose permission am I seeking before I make the changes I know I need to make?
  • What things am I continually repeating while expecting different results?
  • Who in my life am I allowing to influence the direction I take? What am I gaining by doing this? What am I losing?
  • In what area of my life am I bargaining? Instead, what do I need to surrender?

Part 4 – Poster Child

2 Kings 5:7

  • What situation in my life am I expecting someone else to “fix”?
  • On whom have I placed responsibility for my issues? What are the results?
  • Who has placed responsibility for their issues on me?
  • How does that make me feel?

Part 5 – Lights . . . Camera . . . DRAMA!

2 Kings 5:8-10

  • Who is the Drama King/Queen in my world?
  • Do I add drama or remove it from situations?
  • Where is my comfort zone? When was it last expanded?
  • Who am I trying to drag with me on my journey?
  • Who do I believe needs to change in order for my life to be normal?

Part 6 – I Have to do What?!?

2 Kings 5:11-12

  • What unmet expectations am I experiencing now? How do I need to adjust them?
  • What methods am I questioning? Instead, what steps of obedience do I need to take?
  • Where am I on my path to healing and recovery? In what areas have I gotten off course?
  • What people on the journey do I feel superior to? Why?
  • Whose Elisha am I?
  • How do I need to change my words, attitudes, or actions to be sure I’m not in the spotlight – but God is?

Part 7 – A Real Friend

2 Kings 5:13-14

  • Which of my friends are willing to get close enough to me to tell me the truth?
  • Who in my life gives me a proper perspective about my situation?
  • When was the last time I got honest with myself about myself?
  • How many times am I willing to repeat the same basic steps in order to be healed?
  • What does my desired outcome look like?

Part 8 – The Long Way Home

2 Kings 5:15

  • Who is around me that God wants to witness my healing and recovery?
  • Who am I pointing people to? Me? My Elisha? God?
  • How much closer am I to God than when I began my journey?
  • How does God want to use my “but”?
  • What is God’s major goal in my situation?

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

The Long Way Home

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 8

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.” – 2 Kings 5:15

When Naaman left Aram back in verse 5, he had one goal: to be healed of his leprosy.

And that’s usually our goal when we begin our journey toward healing and recovery. We just want everything back to ‘normal’ . . . whatever that looks like. We want our issue to be gone . . . our ‘but’ to be taken away. (See “What’s Your ‘But’?” post if this doesn’t make sense.)

However, God usually has a different goal.

And by usually I mean always.

God doesn’t enjoy us being in pain. But if we are in pain, God will definitely use it for His holy purposes.

I believe one of God’s main goals for our lives is for us to KNOW HIM. He wants an intimate relationship with each one of us. He wants us to get to know Him . . . to learn about His character . . . to find out how much He loves every one of us.

And He’s willing to use extreme measures to encourage us to build that relationship with Him.

After I had attended Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings every week for over a year, I felt like a different person. I had learned a lot about myself and my ‘but’ and I looked at life and relationships differently than I ever had before. I looked forward to the future and had developed healthier relationships than I’d ever had in my life.

But there was something missing. I knew in my heart that there was something more for me to do with my life. I knew there was a purpose that God wanted me to fulfill. And I was willing to do it.

There was just one problem. I didn’t have a clue what it was!

So I prayed. And I prayed. And I begged God to tell me. And I pleaded with Him. But I couldn’t get an answer.

It didn’t make sense to me. Here I was telling God that I was willing to do whatever it was He wanted me to do. Yet He wouldn’t tell me what it was.

Frustrated doesn’t begin to explain how I felt.

I remember praying that if God would just write out what He wanted me to do in the sky, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it. Or He could just send me a letter . . . or an email! Just do something, God, to let me know what it is that I’m desiring so hard to do!

I spent hours reading His Word, talking to Him about everything in my life . . . especially about Him letting me in on whatever purpose it was that He had burned into my heart.

In the meantime, I got involved with women’s Bible studies at my church. Eventually shy, quiet Rhonda who previously had no self-worth or self-esteem or self-confidence . . . and who previously wouldn’t talk if more than one person was around . . . began facilitating Bible studies.

That was WAY outside my comfort zone!

Eventually I was asked to write a Bible study, which I then co-led with one of the pastors of my church. I was asked to ghostwrite the incredible life story of one of our members.

And I started speaking to women’s groups. I spoke at women’s retreats and special events.

And then it hit me . . . all of this was the purpose God had placed in my heart.

He hadn’t written it in the sky or sent it in the mail. He had led me to it step-by-step over the course of a few years.

And the end result wasn’t just that I was finally fulfilling the purpose He created me for. The real end result was an intimate relationship with God that I could never have imagined.

You see, all those hours spent reading and studying His word looking for his will for me. All those prayers begging and pleading Him to let me in on His purpose for my life. All the seeking to find what it was He wanted me to do. All of that was His way of pulling me closer and closer to Him. Until I was so close that doing what He designed me to do was second nature.

And also second place in my life. Second only to my relationship with Him.

I don’t believe God’s major goal for our life is our healing. Or even fulfilling the purpose He created us for.

I believe His major goal for our life is an intimate relationship with Him. He wants us to know Him.

That’s His goal for me. That’s his goal for you.

And that was His goal for Naaman.

And God’s not in a hurry because intimate relationships take time.

Look at Naaman’s journey for instance.

  • Naaman’s army invaded Israel.
  • A young Israeli girl was taken captive.
  • This young girl was assigned to attend Naaman’s wife.
  • Naaman contracted leprosy.
  • The servant girl told Naaman’s wife that there was healing available through Elisha.
  • The king of Aram sent Naaman to the king of Israel for healing instead of to Elisha.
  • The reaction of Israel’s king sent Naaman further out of his comfort zone to be healed.
  • Elisha gave Naaman directions to his path for healing and restoration.
  • Naaman’s servants encouraged him to follow through with those directions.
  • God was faithful and healed Naaman when Naaman obeyed.

But the ultimate result of this journey is found in verse 15.

It’s not Naaman’s healing. It’s not the restoration of his body. It’s not his cleansing.

The ultimate result of the journey Naaman took is that he now knows that there is only one true God . . . the God of Israel.

That’s it. That was God’s purpose for Naaman’s journey. To get to know God.

God used everything in Naaman’s situation to bring Naaman into a relationship with Him.

And God wants to use everything in your situation to bring you into a closer relationship with Him. I believe that’s His main purpose for your current journey.

God’s goal for whatever ‘but’ is in your life is an intimate relationship with Him. For you to KNOW HIM. Healing may come sooner or later, but God’s focus is on your heart and on focusing your attention on your relationship with Him.

Wherever you are in your journey right now, remember . . . God has a plan for your situation. A plan that will bring you into a closer relationship with Him.

Your problem hasn’t caught Him off guard. He’s not scrambling to come up with a solution.

In fact, He had a plan before you even knew you had a ‘but’!

Surrender to His plan. Accept that your healing more than likely won’t be instantaneous. It will take you further out of your comfort zone than you want to go. It will take longer than you think it should. And it will cost more than you want to pay.

But also remember that the life you will live down the road will be worth the trip. The relationships you have will be priceless. The accomplishments you experience will be unbelievably fulfilling.

But most importantly, the relationship with God that is available through this process is more satisfying than anything else on this planet.

Let go of whatever is holding you back and take the next step on your path to healing and recovery.

I’ll see you down the road!

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

A Real Friend

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 7

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. – 2 Kings 5:13-14

So Naaman’s mad. And headed back home. Back to status quo.

Going back home and bathing in his homeland’s rivers – even if he had to do it seventy times – would be more comfortable than bathing in a new river, in a foreign land, and exposing himself to strangers.

But Naaman’s servants caught up with him. Other translations use the words ‘came near’. We all need friends who aren’t afraid to come near, to get close to us when we’re behaving badly. When we’re overreacting. When we’re making decisions based on our emotions.

And notice that Naaman’s servants called him Father. To me that shows they cared about him. And he cared about them. He wasn’t just their boss, he was their friend. There was a loving, caring relationship between them, and they really wanted him to be healed. They wanted it badly enough to risk confronting him in his anger.

Now that takes a real friend.

We all need friends like that when we’re on our journey to healing and recovery. I didn’t have one when I started out . . . unless you count the therapist that sent me to the CoDA (Co-Dependents Anonymous) meetings! But I found one at those meetings. When we met, we immediately clicked. We had a lot in common. We were in similar situations. And we discovered we both liked to walk. So we started walking together at least once a week.

On those walks, we would share what was going on in our lives. That first year, things didn’t go well for either one of us. There were some really dark times. But for the first time in my life, I was willing to open up and share what I was really going through with another human being. That, in itself, was very healing.

We encouraged each other to keep going when things got tough. We reminded each other to speak up for ourselves and do what’s right instead of continuing to enable the dysfunction in our situations.

It took a lot of walks, a lot of miles, a lot of talking, but eventually our lives turned around. Our situations changed. We gained a healthy perspective about our lives up to that point. Our self-image and self-esteem grew and blossomed and we became women who knew their value.

We’re still good friends and we still go on long hikes and talk about what’s going on in our lives. We even remained close while I lived over a thousand miles away for six years. There’s a bond between us that can’t be broken. We went through Hell together. That kind of relationship can’t be replaced.

As you recall, Naaman had expected a big production and an immediate healing. That’s typically what we want to happen, isn’t it. I know I did. I wanted the people who were causing me so much grief to realize the error of their ways, repent, tell everyone involved they had been wrong, and get help for their issues.

Needless to say, it didn’t happen that way.

And I’m so glad it didn’t.

The healing and recovery process is rarely instantaneous. There are times when God does heal a situation or an issue in our lives immediately and we don’t have to deal with it again. But I believe those times are the exception, not the rule.

I believe that most of the time we have to take the long road to healing and recovery. We have to deal head-on with our issues. We have to learn to live with and around people who aren’t dealing with theirs. We have to take responsibility for what we’re responsible for. And stop taking responsibility when we’re not. And that’s a lot easier said than done.

Naaman’s servants asked him a very interesting question. If Elisha had told him to do some grand deed in order to be healed, would he have done it?

Naaman was used to doing grand deeds. He was a war hero. He was a valiant soldier. Give him a village to conquer and he would get it done. Give him a hometown to defend against an attack and it would be saved. Tell him to go conquer a neighboring country in order to be healed, and he’d be on it like white on rice.

But to have to humble himself, to keep going further out of his comfort zone, to reveal his weakness to total strangers, to consistently take small steps over and over again . . . that was just asking too much.

His servants . . . his real friends . . . helped him put the situation in perspective. And Naaman calmed down long enough to realize it was worth a try.

My friend and I took many steps . . . literally and figuratively . . . on our journey. Sometimes it was 3 steps forward and 2 steps back, but we consistently took the next step, were honest with each other, and encouraged each other along the way. That’s what brings healing and recovery: taking small healthy steps consistently until eventually it becomes the norm in your life.

That’s what Naaman had to do.

I love that it says he ‘went down’ because in order to heal and recover we have to be humble. If the circumstances your issues created haven’t humbled you enough, the journey to healing and recovery will . . . if you stick with it.

Elisha told Naaman to go wash himself seven times in the Jordan. I don’t know about you, but I don’t wear clothes when I take a bath. I don’t think Naaman did either.

Taking off anything that’s covering up the real us is an absolute necessity of the healing and recovery process. We have to be honest—with ourselves and with others. We have to expose our real selves (get naked!), humble ourselves (‘go down’), and take the next step . . . bathe ourselves in the truth . . . as many times as it takes in order to heal.

After Naaman dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, it says his flesh was restored. In fact, it says it was clean like that of a young boy. His skin wasn’t just healed of leprosy, it was given a fresh start!

That’s how I felt several months into my healing and recovery process . . . like a totally different person . . . like a “new me”! That’s because I was a different person. But it had taken time and persistence and commitment.

Surrounding ourselves with at least one friend who really cares about us and encourages us to stay committed to our healing and recovery process will make the journey a little easier.

Then one day we’ll be able to return the favor by being that kind of friend to someone we love who’s struggling. As a healthier, more functional person, we’ll no longer be afraid to be lovingly honest with ourselves and with others.

And that is worth taking a million steps!

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

I Have to do What?!?

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 6

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. – 2 Kings 5:11-12

Naaman had different expectations as to how his healing would take place. And unmet expectations can lead to disappointment and anger. Naaman displayed both.

When we start to realize the extent of the work we need to do on our journey toward healing and recovery, we can get very angry. In the beginning we naively think it will be a simple process.

Naaman thought the prophet would come see him in person, stand there and call on God, wave his hand over the spot and cure him. Just like that! Seemed simple enough.

Now Naaman is receiving instructions from the prophet’s servant! Not what Naaman is used to in his position. And the instructions are placing all the work for healing on Naaman. He thought the prophet was going to heal him! And this work he’s being required to do in order to be healed is going to take him even further out of his comfort zone.

Why couldn’t the prophet just do it the simple way?

This healing was turning into a process. A process where Naaman is doing all the work. And he’s having to go further out of his comfort zone. And it’s taking a lot longer than he believed necessary.

Naaman wasn’t sure it was worth it!

And neither was I.

I remember the first time I heard the word co-dependency. It came from the lips of a therapist. I was in her office because my life was falling apart. I was in my mid 40’s and as hard as I tried, I could not get the people in my life to behave. They were continually making decisions that made my life miserable.

If they would just do what’s right, I would be fine. At least that’s what I thought. And that’s what I told the therapist.

She asked me a few questions about how I felt about certain things in my life. I had a hard time answering them . . . because I wasn’t sure how I felt about anything. I was pretty sure I knew how my friends and loved ones felt about things. I could definitely tell her that. But I had a hard time defining my own feelings.

She told me I was co-dependent and recommended a Co-Dependants Anonymous (CoDA) 12-step group close to my home.

Well, that wasn’t exactly how I thought she would handle the situation! I really expected her to bring my loved ones into the room, tell them how they needed to change their behavior, and then everything would be fine.

Now she was telling me that I had to do the work, and I had to go way out of my comfort zone to do it, and it was starting to look like this process was going to take longer than I had expected.

And just like Naaman, I got angry.

I wasn’t the one making all these poor decisions that were complicating my life. Right? I was the sane one, wasn’t I? How would me working on my ‘stuff’ have any effect on the decisions my loved ones were making? They were the ones with the problems, not me!

I wasn’t sure I believed what the therapist said. And I definitely didn’t want to go to a 12-step meeting. Those were for people with real problems . . . like addictions. Shouldn’t I just stay home and spend more time telling my loved ones how they needed to change? Maybe if I just tried a little harder things would get better.

Naaman wasn’t sure he believed what the prophet’s servant had told him. And he definitely wasn’t sure he wanted to go wash himself in a river in Israel. Maybe he should just go back to his own country and wash himself in one of its rivers, like he had been doing. Maybe he just hadn’t done it enough. Maybe seven times was the key.

At this point Naaman and I are both tempted to go back into our cycles of insanity. Trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

And Naaman and I both get angry. Anger is one of the major emotions we have to deal with on our journey toward healing. We all usually have a preconceived idea of how it should work and it rarely, if ever, happens that way. So we end up with unmet expectations which can translate into disappointment and anger.

And when we get disappointed and angry we start to question everything instead of just taking the next step. We start to blame other people’s actions and lack of action for our anger. And we think that maybe we just need to keep trying . . . just a little harder.

Unfortunately a lot of people spend their entire lives right here. They keep trying harder and harder, tweaking things just a little, and expecting that one day things are going to be different. They don’t have the courage it takes to take the first step on their journey . . . to do something different.

I’m not sure where my courage came from. Maybe things got so bad that trying anything different had to be better than what I was experiencing. Maybe it was the encouragement of the therapist . . . or the encouragement of my daughter. I’m not sure what it was, but I’m sure glad it happened.

There’s something else in this passage that I want to mention.

I used to wonder why Elisha sent his servant out to give Naaman directions for his healing. I mean, he could have come out himself and told him. But I think I understand now.

I think Elisha did it for two reasons. I think one reason was to humble Naaman. As we learned in the first couple of verses, Naaman was a very prominent person in his country. One who was used to the best. He had a personal relationship with his king. He was famous. And he was used to dealing with other prominent people.

The fact that Elisha didn’t come out to personally deliver the message probably injured Naaman’s ego. But I also think that it possibly helped jumpstart his journey.

I’ve heard all my life that the ground at the foot of the cross is level. In other words, everyone who comes to Jesus for forgiveness of their sins has to humble themselves at His feet. We’re all equal there. No matter who we are.

The same is true in the healing and recovery process. The billionaire CEO addicted to porn is no better . . . and no better off . . . than the Skid Row meth addict . . . or the Christian lady with a shopping addiction!

Everyone who takes the journey toward healing and recovery starts at the very bottom. We have to realize who we are and what we’ve done and that we’re at the very beginning point. No one gets a head start. No matter who they are.

And I believe Elisha knew Naaman needed to learn that.

The other reason I believe he sent his servant to Naaman was so no one would give Elisha credit for the healing. Elisha wanted to be sure God received all the credit.

I think when we are someone’s Elisha we need to be sure we don’t take any credit for their healing. We can give someone direction. We can share with them about our journey and give them good counsel. But we can’t heal them. And we need to be sure we don’t give them the impression that it has anything to do with us.

I’m so thankful for my Elisha’s and their counsel along the way. And I’m very thankful I got over my disappointment and anger long enough to start my journey.

But most of all I’m thankful to God for the healing He has provided as I’ve cooperated with Him along the way. And for this example of Naaman that He shares with us here.

Let’s see what Naaman’s going to do . . .

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

Lights . . . Camera . . . DRAMA!

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 5

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.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 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.” – 2 Kings 5:8-10

Do you remember the Peanuts character Pig-Pen? He was the little guy who had a perpetual dust cloud around him. In more than one episode Pig-Pen bathed and put on clean clothes and the moment he stepped outside he instantly became dirty. He then remarked to Charlie Brown, “You know what I am? I’m a dust magnet!”

I think that possibly describes us . . . especially before we start our journey to healing and recovery. Except we’re not dust magnets . . . we’re drama magnets! No matter how much we say we want out of the drama, no matter how far away from certain drama kings and queens we try to stay, the drama seems to follow us around.

And when we’re enveloped in this cloud of drama all the time, we can’t see things clearly.

I remember when I first started my journey toward healing and recovery, I was amazed at how clearly some people were able to discern the issues behind all the drama in my life. While all I saw was seemingly never-ending confusion and chaos, they saw simply black and white issues that could be addressed.

I wanted that! And gradually and eventually I got more and more of it.

The king of Israel appears to me to be another kind of king . . . a Drama King! I have to believe that he knew about Elisha. I believe he knew Elisha was God’s prophet. I bet the king knew about some of the miracles God had performed through Elisha. I have a feeling he knew where Elisha lived, or at least knew someone who could point Naaman in the right direction.

But instead of calmly addressing the real issue . . . that Naaman had come to the wrong person for healing, the king of Israel throws a drama party.

Thankfully he had someone who could see through his cloud of drama.

Elisha hears about it and sends a message to the king. The message has three points. Here’s my paraphrase:

  1. Quit being the Drama King.
  2. Send him to me.
  3. Offer him some hope.

Elisha was not fooled by the cloud of drama in the throne room. He calmed the Drama King down. He gave clear direction for Naaman’s next step. He kept Naaman’s hope alive . . . hope that the king had just dashed to pieces.

Al of us need an Elisha in our lives – people who can see through our drama. People who know our next steps to take in the recovery process. And people who know how to keep our hope alive when things look bleak.

Naaman decides to give it a try. So he and his entire group ride up to Elisha’s front door. I don’t know for sure, but I bet Naaman’s entourage was bigger than the house Elisha lived in!

I realize Naaman probably didn’t want to travel alone. And maybe he had to take part of the cavalry with him on his trip. But did the entire clan have to go to Elisha’s house?

The healing and recovery process is only available to individuals. There’s no group rate. Now you may very well be part of a group, 12-steps or otherwise, but the work is done on an individual basis.

And like Naaman had to go to the prophet’s house, we will definitely have to go out of our comfort zone during our healing process. And isn’t that a good thing? I mean for crying out loud . . . our comfort zone is smack dab in the middle of dysfunction and chaos! It’s filled with drama and hopelessness! Who would want to stay there?!?

I would. You would. We all would. Because we know what to expect there. Right? Even when what we expect is not pleasant, at least we’re used to it.

It takes a lot of courage to leave our comfort zone. Even if that comfort zone is dangerous. Every day women stay in physically abusive relationships that end up killing them.

Others of us stay in relationships that are abusive in other ways and put up with it for a long time. Some stay their entire lives. We don’t have enough courage to try anything different. We know what to expect. Even if what we expect is not good. Or right. Or even safe.

And when we’re offered hope of a better life through healing and recovery, we want to drag all that baggage with us and fix everyone involved at the same time. We continue to ‘carry’ all our relationships and history with us. We don’t understand that the only person we can change is ourselves.

I was once told by a therapist that the best thing I could do for my loved ones who were involved in this dysfunction with me was to heal and recover myself. That way I could be an example for them.

She knew what I didn’t . . . that when I changed, all of my relationships would also change.

The directions Elisha gave Naaman were not what Naaman expected, as we will see in the next chapter. I don’t think the healing and recovery process is ever what we expect it to be. We want instant fixes. We want easy to follow directions. And we want to stay in our comfort zone with the companions we have now. We want to continue with our life the way it is. (Say, didn’t we recently talk about insanity?)

My healing and recovery process took me further out of my comfort zone than I ever imagined. It cost me things I did not want to lose. And I had to do things that did not make sense to me.

But I continued . . . not because it was easy or comfortable or logical. I continued because people kept holding out hope to me. Hope for healing. For sanity. For a functional life.

I continued mainly because I met people who had lived much worse lives than I, had been in much deeper pits, and were now sane. Healed. Hopeful. Functional. Were their lives perfect? Definitely not. Were all their loved ones healed and recovered? Unfortunately not all of them. But these people seemed genuinely happy.

They had let go of things they couldn’t control or change and were clinging to what they could . . . their own journey. They were focused on enjoying where they were on their path and in continually pursuing the next step.

My goal in healing and recovery became MY healing and recovery. Yes, I wanted those around me to make the journey too, but I learned that was not in my control. So I made the decision to pursue my path.

I’m so glad I did.

There’s one more thing that Elisha says that I believe offered Naaman . . . and me . . . hope for the journey.

Elisha said that the results of Naaman washing himself seven times in the Jordan would be restoration and cleansing.

The first thing that hits me here is that Elisha said Naaman should ‘wash himself’. I wonder if this had to do with the fact that Naaman came with his entire entourage, which probably included a servant or two.

I don’t know if Naaman was accustomed to being bathed by his servants, but I think Elisha wanted to be clear here that this was something Naaman had to do for himself. No one else could do it for him. Just like our own healing and recovery process.

I think the rest of that sentence represents two things. The restored flesh is a physical sign of the inward cleansing. I believe that continuing the healing process, following through and not giving up will result in a major change on the inside.

But I believe that the inward change will also be displayed on the outside. Others will recognize that something monumental has happened to us. The transformation we go through will become more and more obvious  . . . especially to the people who know us best.

And that is why some of them will decide to pursue their own journey of healing and recovery. Because our transformation offers them hope.

Our experiences will enable us to one day be someone else’s Elisha.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

Poster Child

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 4

I love this popular definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I was the poster child for that definition for most of my life. I stayed in my comfort zone and kept trying the same things the same way time after time after time. And for some reason, I was surprised when I kept getting the same results.

In our story, Naaman has decided to stay in his comfort zone and follow his boss’s suggestion. Instead of going to a lowly prophet in Samaria for healing, he took a large payment and went straight to the top. The king of Israel.

I believe my healing is a job for God and me. And your healing is a job for God and you. And Naaman’s healing was a job for God and Naaman.

When we’re hurting we need to ask God for direction and then go where He leads us. Sometimes it may be to a therapist. Sometimes to a 12-step group. Possibly to a chiropractor or naturopath. Or it may involve a physician or a surgeon or medication.

Healing . . . whether it’s mental or physical or emotional . . . is God’s work. But we have to cooperate. We have to take responsibility for our part – which is following God’s directions.

I also believe in miraculous, out of the blue, instantaneous healing straight from Heaven! But I believe those incidences are fewer and farther between than the mercy-filled, day after day, difficult, God-dependent healing He wants to do in us.

God had given Naaman clear direction through the servant girl. And now, based on a new direction suggested by his master, Naaman is shifting the responsibility for his healing from God (through God’s prophet) to the king of Israel.

And the king of Israel is annoyed!

II Kings 5:7 – 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!”

For decades I lived my life mired in dysfunction. Co-dependency to be exact. I didn’t know how to distinguish between my responsibilities and the responsibilities of the people around me.

I frequently took over their responsibilities without being asked. That usually didn’t upset them too much. But I also turned some of my most basic responsibilities over to them!

And that didn’t always go over very well!

It’s so easy to see now, but at the time I was so dysfunctional that I actually thought that was how life worked. Even though it wasn’t working very well for me! But I kept trying. Can we all say INSANITY?

I think Naaman made the same mistake. He turned over the responsibility for the decision about his healing to his boss and then to the king of Israel. His boss did things the way he always did. And the king of Israel got angry because he was expected to do something he wasn’t capable of doing!

Shifting the responsibility for life decisions, including our healing, may make us feel relieved in the short-term. It’s in someone else’s hands. It’s not up to us. But the relief is only temporary and the healing process is prolonged and misunderstandings are created.

Expecting someone else to take responsibility for fixing us is asking for trouble. No one else can fix you. A therapist can’t, although they can help you start to recognize your issues and what you need to do to change. A 12-step group can’t, although they can be a great source of direction and encouragement. Your spouse can’t fix you. Neither can your boss, or your children, or your parents, or your friends.

As I said earlier, I believe your healing is a job for God and you. You cooperate with the process He leads you to and through. You do the required work. He does the healing.

And the flip side of that coin is that you can’t fix anyone else! No matter what your position is or how much education or experience you have. No matter how much you love a person and can see what they need to do.

You. Can’t. Fix. Them.

And when someone else expects you to fix them, it’s very frustrating. Just ask the king of Israel! You are no longer just responsible for your own life . . . they’re holding you responsible for theirs, too.

Someone is expecting you to do something you don’t have the power to do.

I think that’s how the king of Israel felt when he read the letter from the king of Aram.

And to top it off, Namaan brought with him a generous payment for the healing he was asking the king of Israel to perform. How exasperating!

Healing is not a transaction. Our status and ability to pay don’t secure our healing. The tools God uses to heal us may cost us monetarily. But His healing isn’t for sale.

Healing is a process. It’s usually a process in uncharted territory outside of our comfort zone and almost always takes longer than we think it should.

But I’m getting ahead of the story.

For now, we have to take responsibility for our own healing. And since God is the one that heals, we need to rely on Him to lead us to and through the process He chooses for us and cooperate with Him every step of the way.

Trying to pass our responsibility on to anyone else is useless.

Unless you want to take my place as the poster child for that definition of insanity.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

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