Jeremiah 29:1,4-72
Kings 5:1-3, 7-15
2 Tim. 2:8-15
Luke 17:11-19

“Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (2 Kings 5:13)

My son has a habit of doing everything the hard way.

He loves making things, and he tends to dive right in to new projects without thinking through the ins-and-outs, and usually without consulting a Local Expert (me) about his plans. Often, even when he does run it by me, he decides not to take my suggestions… so his circular game board is egg-shaped, his journal pages are misaligned, and his paint brushes are chronically dried stiff.

I can’t give him too much of a hard time, though; it’s human nature to do things the hard way. Maybe it’s because we see ourselves as fiercely independent, and we’d rather do things badly on our own than to ask for help. Maybe it’s because we need to learn through trying. And maybe it’s because, bottom line, we just can’t believe it could be as simple as that. We want to earn our achievements, and if it is too easy, it doesn’t prove our ability, or our worthiness, or our goodness.

Naaman couldn’t believe his leprosy was as easy to cure as the prophet Elisha said it was: go down to the river, wash seven times, done. Naaman was looking for either 1) a magic wand, or 2) an epic journey. He expected a cure, but he expected to have to earn it. He was prepared to do the difficult thing to prove his commitment; the idea of a simple bath in the local waters hardly seemed like enough of a challenge to earn healing.

Naaman wasn’t just disappointed; he was furious that Elisha’s assignment for him was so lackluster! As a victorious military commander, surely Naaman deserved more attention from the prophet, and a more demanding quest to fulfill!

It wasn’t the prophet of the Lord, the Local Expert, but rather Naaman’s own servants who convinced him to let go of his need to do things the hard way. They asked him the wonderful rhetorical question: If you’re willing to do it the difficult way, how much more willing should you be to do it the easy way?

You could have a perfectly circular gameboard. Your journal pages could be exact squares, and your paintbrushes could be clean and supple. Your leprous wounds could be replaced by healthy skin. A quick trip to the river, seven good dunks, and done.

There is grace for those who need healing; we don’t have to earn it by proving our competence, our qualifications, or our value by taking the most complicated routes to wellness. There’s grace for those of us who need to be healed from our own demanding expectations. There’s grace for those of us who need to listen to wisdom from unexpected sources.

There’s even grace for so-called Local Experts who tend to think they (we) know it all, and sometimes forget to respect the ways others learn, create, and grow. There’s grace for those of us who need to learn to enjoy playing egg-shaped games, to fill the wonky pages of our lives with joy, and to allow our brushes–and our hearts–to be softened, again and again.

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in South Carolina. She blogs at One Faithful Step.