Light through the cracks: a lesson from Naaman

This reflection on 2 Kings 5: 1-14 is written by Jon Nofziger, Constituency Engagement Facilitator for MCC BC. Jon has served with MCC in Germany, England, Haiti, and Nicaragua, as well as Miami, Winnipeg and Abbotsford.

How do we experience the reality of God in the chaos of the world today? Sometimes God works in unexpected ways and we miss recognizing God’s actions.

Peace candle

Naaman was a man of great authority, held in high esteem, second only to the king of Aram. He was popular, a folk hero, a victorious military leader. Yet he became afflicted with the skin disease leprosy. He feared that his condition — and his loss of beauty — could  lead to dismissal from his prestigious position. For Naaman, leprosy may have been as much a spiritual condition as a physical condition.

Naaman attempted to purchase healing, a pattern that is still prominent today. Many people use wealth and power as leverage to gain “healing.” Many today are perishing form the “leprosy” of power. When have we sought to purchase our healing?

In the story, Naaman became angry when the prophet Elisha failed to receive him with the pomp and ceremony he felt he deserved. Naaman’s pride prevented him from seeing how God could act in simple non-pompous ways. Many of us are like Naaman — we believe God must personally attend our pleas and it must be a grand show. If things don’t turn out as desired, we conclude that we didn’t get God’s attention or we have not been faithful. Why do we, like Naaman, expect God to respond in a set manner or time frame?

The story provides two “cracks” that shine light on how God acts. The first crack is a little slave girl – a weak insignificant person, someone on the margins of society — who cares for Naaman’s need and points him in the direction of God. The second crack is Naaman’s servants, who convince him to follow Elisha’s mundane instructions to wash in the river, and not wait for the pomp of a pre-conceived expectation. Sometimes it takes “simple” events or people to open our eyes to divine light shining in through the cracks.

Like Naaman, we too can believe our own “rivers” are cleaner than God’s; thus our own plans are as good, if not more complete, than God’s. How do we substitute our way for God’s way? Do our expectations try fit God’s methodology into a box in ways that we can “see and understand.” We need to be open to seeing the distorted light oozing in through the cracks. True faith is assurance that God is working in our lives and in the world, even when we don’t perceive the signs.

In the Lord of the Rings series, the great wizard Gandalf says, “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay: small acts of kindness and love.” It is the Bilbo Baggins of this world — the slaves, the servants, the marginalized ones — that demonstrate how God will ultimately destroy evil.

In the MCC world, it is often the ordinary people who provide the cracks. As Doug and Naomi Enns, our MCC reps in Lebanon and Syria, inform us — ordinary folk are opening their churches, mosques, homes and lives to offer refuge to thousands of people fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq.

All of us have cracks in our lives. I believe God shines through these cracks. As we move forward as the church, may we encourage one another to see God/Christ in the unlikely actions and people who point us to the cracks. In his work “Anthem,” poet Leonard Cohen puts it this way:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

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