An Old Testament story that reasonates with me is the story of the miraculous healing of a Syrian captain. I can picture the story being played out on a theatre stage with God as its director. The story’s plot is told in II Kings, chapter 5.
Since being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome last month, I am going over Bible stories in my mind, such as this one, but from a different pair of lens. I always had this pair since I was always autistic; I just didn’t know what the pair was called until now.
The first verse introduces us to Naaman, captain for the army of the King of Syria. He must have been successful in his military career because it tells us in this verse he was in good standing with his boss, the king. He must have been near the higher end of the chain of command since he had direct contact with the King, he had servants, and at least, one slave we are told of. He also had a wife and perhaps a family to go along with that. An ideal life except it had a big glitch: he was a leper. A disease that he couldn’t hide because evidence of it showed on his body and would only get worse. A disease that threatened to take his job and maybe separation from his family. A disease that if something else didn’t take it, it would.
In the next verse, we’re introduced to another member of the cast. It is a slave girl from Israel. She didn’t have what Naaman had. She was taken from her home and thus, had no home of her own. She was placed in the home of Naaman and his wife. She knew about her master’s leprosy and her reaction was one of empathy instead of delight. She didn’t want her master to die of this horrible disease. The little maid knew of the prophet Elisha back in her homeland. She truly believed he was God’s prophet and could heal her master if he would turn to the prophet for help.
Instead of keeping this thought to herself, she decided to speak up. Now this is something hard for “aspies” to do; not that it isn’t hard for those off the spectrum. It had to have taken some courage on her part to speak to her mistress about the fate of her mistress’s husband. She might have thought beforehand, “Who am I to offer hope of a cure for my master to my master’s wife? .” She could have dismissed the notion by telling herself she was a mere slave and it wasn’t any of her business. Well, despite whatever doubts might have risen up in her mind, she spoke up. Her mistress took it serious enough to pass on the word to her husband. Maybe out of desperation since no on else around was offering any suggestions. Naaman in turn didn’t discard it. He sought his king’s input who urged him to follow the young girl’s advice. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained. He had nothing to lose but plenty to gain. Like his life!
The Syrian king must have really wanted to keep Naaman on staff. He wrote a letter to the king of Israel for Naaman to give to him. It was a request for the king to heal Naaman of his leprosy. I know that might sound strange since the girl didn’t refer Naaman to Israel’s king but maybe it was a king-to-king sort of thing. Naaman’s boss may have thought it more appropriate to write the Israeli king in hopes of the king then urging Elisha to heal Naaman.
Naaman and his servants then went to pay a call on the king of Israel. He read the letter and had what sounds like to me from what the scripture says a genuine PANIC attack! The Israeli king commenced to tearing his clothes. Us “aspies” might think it similar to a “meltdown”! I’ve had those myself and there are no fun. I didn’t go so far as to tear my clothes but my pillows sure got the bad end of my meltdown.
The source of the king’s anxiety was fear the Syrian king was up to something and it wasn’t good. At this time, the two kings were at a truce, but it was an uneasy one. Elisha somehow got wind of this and sent word to the king to quit tearing his clothes and send Naaman to him.
So Naaman and his servants are back on the road again to Elisha’s house. Naaman had so much riding on the outcome of the visit with the prophet. On one hand, he probably felt fear that he was heading down a road to a dead end; on the other, hope that maybe his slave girl had been right.
I know about fear and anxiety as most people do. It’s just that living on the autism spectrum, I struggle hard with fear and anxiety; not only when something is going on outside of me to warrant it, like when my car won’t start. But anxiety paying me a visit from out of no where. In Naaman’s case, anyone would be anxious with their life on the line.
When Naaman came with his horses and chariot, his servants, he expected that Elisha would come out of his house and greet him. Perhaps lift up his hands towards Heaven and pray to His God, and then rub his hands on Naaman’s leprosy and “poof” it be gone. That’s a nice story but that’s not how it came down. Expectations not met can be a big source of an anxiety attack.
Instead, Elisha didn’t even come out to greet him. He sent a messenger instead with the prescription. Naaman was ticked about that since he wasn’t use to that kind of “no-greeting”. The prescription ticked him off even further. It was to go and wash in the Jordan River seven times and upon coming up the seventh time, he would be healed.
I do wonder what was Naaman’s immediate reaction. Maybe, “You want me to do WHAT??” or “Will you repeat that” or “You’ve got to be kidding. You’re pulling my leg, right?” I don’t think Naaman in his wildest dreams could have come up with that prescription. The Jordan River wasn’t lined up with sick folks waiting to take a bath in it.
Naaman may have felt like he had been kicked in the stomach. He was right back at square one; or so, he thought. His servants who had observed this thought Naaman should take the prescription. They took a risk and told their master as much. Now mind, ya, their master was NOT in a good mood. It is like you or me asking our boss for time off or a raise when the boss is in a lousy mood. Not a good idea! However, they spoke up just like the slave girl did. They advised Naaman that if the prophet had asked him to do something difficult, he would have done it. They reminded Naaman he had nothing to lose by following through with the prophet’s instructions. Just do it and see what happens!
To his credit, Naaman listened. Maybe that’s one reason he was well thought of by the Syrian king, his servants, and his slave girl: he listened to those below him as well as above him. Naaman went down to the Jordan River. I don’t think his expectations were as high as they were when he first arrived at Elisha’s house, but he went nevertheless. That’s a lesson in itself. Follow the conviction on your heart when God’s spirit speaks to you and just do it inspite of those plaguing doubts. Then see what happens.
Naaman did exactly as he was told. He didn’t dip twice or twelve times; just seven. When he came up the seventh time, his expectations were not met. Instead, what came down exceeded his expectations. He not only was healed of leprosy which was a miracle in itself, but his flesh was like that of a little child. He not only was no longer a leper, but he looked YOUNGER!!!
Naaman had to have felt tons of relief and joy. He had a new lease on life. He could have returned to the life he left behind right then and there, but instead, he took a detour to Elisha’s house. This time Elisha did come out and had a chat with him.
Naaman offered him gifts of gratitude which was an understandable thing to do; however, the prophet refused them refusing to profit from being a prophet. Elisha didn’t heal Naaman; God did. I don’t think Elisha could have come up with the prescription in his wildest dreams either. God gave Elisha the words to give to Naaman and not only that, but HOW to deliver them. Through a messenger instead of directly. God not only knows what we should do, but if we should do it, when, where, and how we should do it. That’s another good lesson in itself. I tend to want laid out rules or instructions; however, I also tend to want to be in control of the plans.
Naaman made a rather startling admission. He admitted the only God in all the earth was the One in Israel, the One who healed him. Naaman’s recognition of God was more important than his physical healing. He admitted he would return to his home and resume his duties which included escorting the king to the house of Rimmon to bow down to their idol.
I admit I’d have been more proud of Naaman if he had returned and resigned from his position; however, that might have gotten his head chopped off. Maybe it was never the same for Naaman in the house of Rimmon. He only went through the motions. Perhaps it was similar to what me and other aspies call “going on auto pilot”, going through the motions in “public” of what other people perceive as normal behavior to hide from those around us what is “normal” to us.
It is unknown what happened to Naaman when he returned home to Syria. We don’t know what explanation of his healing he gave to the Syrian king. Or, what he had to tell his wife as to why he looked so much younger.
This story has more than one life lesson. One of them being “doing our part” as a member of the cast. Each one in this cast had a part: the slave girl, Naaman’s wife and king, Elisha, the messenger, Naaman’s servants, and Naaman himself. If the slave girl hadn’t spoke up, this story might have had a different ending. Even though she had a small part in this drama, she was the one who got the ball rolling. At the end of the day, it was Naaman and his decision alone to take or not to take the prophet’s God-given prescription.
I believe God could have healed Naaman without him lifting a finger or anyone else’s help. But instead God worked through him and those around him to bring about his miraculous healing. I believe God still works through His children. It is up to us to heed the Director’s instructions and follow the script. It isn’t our job to play any other role but our own. It isn’t our job to be the Director either.
When you think about it, it really is a privilege to have a part in something much bigger than ourselves. That’s why I wrote this story and others on “Living in the Spectrum”. I’m just merely taking dictation. The Lord is the one I’m taking dictation from.