Go, Wash in the Jordan Seven Times

Namaan, the commander of the army of the King of Aram, had a problem. Jordan_River_entering_Sea_of_Galilee_aerialHe had a skin disease that caused serious discomfort and social shame. But Namaan was a man of means, and so he looked for the very best specialist he could find. When he hear about the prophet serving the King of Israel, he thought: this might just be it.

But when Namaan arrives at the great prophet’s house with luxurious gifts and a royal letter of recommendation, he is disappointed. He doesn’t get a long consultation and a complex prescription. He doesn’t get to see the prophet at all. Instead, a messenger comes out and says: “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored.” Namaan storms away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord, and wave his hand over the spot, and cure me!”

People who are sick or grieving often get infuriated pieces of simple advice for their complex problems. Everyone has a solution: Give up dairy; take up meditation; have a positive attitude. But in our times of greatest need, this advice is the last thing we need. We need people who will listen to us. We need people who will join us in our anger, our grief, or the mindless movies and indulgent desserts that we sometimes use to escape it all.

The bible doesn’t offer much advice for those who are hurting, except for this: God is a good companion. God may not fix our problems (though Namaan was cured when he finally followed through on his prescription). But God’s been around the block a few times. She knows how to rage.  She knows how to grieve. She can walk with us in whatever we’re in, if only we can figure out how to let her.

God, when it’s me with the problem, help me to let you in. God, when it’s someone else with the problem, help me to swallow my advice and open my heart, and bring something great from the bakery. Amen.