So I wrote that I was getting close to some observations on Namaan. I think I have some, and then a few (glaring) application to my own life. This will probably bore you, my dear readers, to tears because I’m sure my insights will be unthinkably obvious. For as self-aware as I think I am, I’m not sure what it means that all my insights are glaringly obvious. Hmm…
Anyway, the story of Namaan can be found in 2 Kings 5. I’ve read it in both the New Living Translation and The Message, both of which I prefer over other versions, fwiw. Here are my thoughts…
Observation #1 – It’s spelled Naaman, not Namaan… Perhaps that’s why my searches had been coming up empty! lol
Observation #2 – Naaman was a good guy who got stuck with a really sucky disease. He was well-liked, had been very influential, and had been in a powerful position as the commander of an army. The name “Naaman” carries with it the idea of being delightful, pleasant, beautiful, gracious, or well-formed. So it’s likely that Namaan was a looker, too, which could have made his leprosy – a disfiguring skin disease – really tough. It hit him where it hurt, it more ways than one. Leprosy set people apart. It segregated them. They had to cover themselves with a special cloth while in public, and they had to shout things out so others would know to stay away from them since they were lepers.
Observation#3 – God used a little slave girl to bring a message to Naaman. She had been captured as part of a battle with Israel. The text doesn’t say this outright, but it seems that she was perhaps taken away from her family. It also seems to me that she had some level of affection for Naaman and his wife, because she wanted Naaman to get healed. I have a hard time imagining the kind of grace and tenderness it would require to care for the person who destroyed your life and ripped you away from your family – especially in your youth. Or perhaps she was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Nonetheless, she was probably fairly insignificant, young, and weak, but the whole story pivots on her doing what she did (which was getting the message out that she knew of someone who could heal Naaman’s disease).
Observation #4 – Naaman was ticked at Elisha’s request that he do something as plain, ordinary, and gross as bobbing up and down in a dirty river seven times. This observation leads directly into the next parts. Elisha told him to get into the disgusting river. Huh??!? How does a disgusting river heal? I think that’s the point – it doesn’t. God does. And it was a regular thing. Naaman didn’t have to get the last white flower from the top of Mount Sinai and combine it with a hair from the Witch at Endor while chanting at 3am over a vat of Dead Sea salt. No. It was regular. It was even easy. Maybe God put something in the water that would heal leprosy. Since leprosy is a bacterial infection, maybe there was some big, natural antibiotic colonization upstream. Or maybe it was his faith. Or his willingness to obey. I don’t know. But I would guess it was regular – probably not even entirely abnormal that he might bathe in a river, given the fact that running water and indoor plumbing were probably a few thousand years off.
Observation #5 – Naaman could have done this at home. He even says this. And his rivers at home were cleaner than the one he was being asked to use. Why did he have to travel far out of his way to a dirty, less preferable area – taking his time and resources – to do something he could have done at home? Obviously there must have been something to the journey. Whether the journey was part of his physical healing – or more likely – whether the journey was designed to heal his heart, the journey was part of the deal. He had to go on a journey and do something regular to get healed.
Observation #6 – As I said before, Naaman was ticked. Incensed. It says he stalked away. In rage. It sounds like he was even a bit prideful, expecting that Elisha would at least come out and greet him, rather than sending out a messenger with the instructions. I won’t say who, but I know someone *cough cough* Heidi *cough cough* who has stalked away. In rage. And with pride. But did Naaman’s rage get in the way? Nope. God didn’t withhold healing because Naaman threw a fit. After someone reasoned with him, Naaman followed through on the dipping in the dirty river and was healed.
And now for the glaringly obvious part.
I feel so many parallels. I feel like I have a problem that separates me from the rest of the world. I’m infertile. It’s embarrassing. People wonder about me. About us. About our family. We’ve started getting lots of questions… “So, what are your plans for your family?” or “Would you like another?” or – the most painful “When are you going to give that little boy a brother or sister?” So few people have one children. Only children are often looked down upon. Considered selfish. Spoiled. Lonely. Less than. Socially inept. I feel sad and different that this is our lot in life, at least right now.
All along, however, I’ve believed that there was something regular that had gone wrong. A normal problem. A fixable problem. In some ways, I’ve fought this because it would be easier to take a pill or a shot. Those things have been studied in double-blind studies. They have statistics to back them up. They may still be a part of our plan. But I’m getting to the place where I feel compelled – almost convicted – that my job is to take care of my body. Really care for it. Not just talk about caring for it. I need to do the right thing by my body. In some ways, this is very, very hard. In other ways, it is much, much easier. I know for sure that it is much less expensive than ART.
I’m also at the point where I am appreciating this journey. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Saying those words feels fundamentally wrong. This is a journey that has come with much pain. I can’t count the tears I’ve cried. But quite honestly, I like this version of myself much more than I liked the previous version of myself. I am no longer driven to do so much in order to make myself acceptable. I am starting to feel comfortable – even happy – at letting go of what other people think of me. When I put on my favorite outfits and spend time doing my makeup, it’s because I think it’s fun, not because I am worried of what people think of me. When I say no to being involved in things to which I used to say yes, I don’t feel “less than.” I feel less panic when I let someone see the inside of our house at times when it looks cyclonic. Would I have gotten to this point without our infertility? Probably, but I’m sure it would have come through a different set of painful circumstances. And I’m not sure I’d trade it. I’d rather struggle through this situation – a situation in which I lost what I never really had – than struggle through a situation in which I lost a precious something I already had.
Finally, it’s no secret that I’ve been mad. Or rather, it’s no secret to anyone else. I’ve had a hard time unpacking my anger and allowing myself to acknowledge and feel it. One reason for that is that I felt my anger would limit God. Or that God would withdraw from me if I was angry with Him. This belief has definitely kept me stuck. I believed that if I wanted to ask for God’s healing, I couldn’t be angry with Him and expect Him to follow through on anything. Both with Naaman and with Naomi, I’ve seen that this isn’t true. God intervenes when people are angry with Him. He doesn’t play along with the silent treatment. If I throw a tantrum, He is not going to withhold His love.
This is quite a relief. I wish I were more like this. When Tahd is angry at me, and in turn I am angry at Tahd, I withhold. I withdraw. Partly, that’s because I freeze up and don’t know what to do and I don’t want to do the wrong thing. Partly, it’s because I get so angry that I want to be separate. Not in a “I want to leave you/I want a divorce” sort of way. Just that I want to stake out the area around myself that is totally “me.” The area in which I won’t compromise. The area in which I won’t let him enter.
I think I have projected that behavior onto my image of God. That if I am angry with God, God is angry with me. That God wants to be separate from me. That we both are staking out our respective areas.
Maybe it’s only me that’s doing that. Maybe God doesn’t really care that I’m doing that.
I try to imagine God’s perspective by imaging how I’d feel in a similar situation as a parent. If I look at this through that lens, I know I’d feel mostly sad if Gabe felt toward me the way I feel toward God. And I certainly wouldn’t be staking out any areas into which he couldn’t enter. That thought wouldn’t even enter my mind. I’d be focused on the reverse.
I do remember a few situations as a child, however, in which I felt I had angered my parents. I felt hesitancy at returning to a close relationship with them because I perceived that they would want to continue being angry. Whether they were angry or not in the first place, I don’t know. But I perceived them to be angry, and I perceived that their anger would make them prefer to avoid me. Thinking about it now, I realize that perspective is a childish perspective, running entirely counter to reality. It is an immature projection onto someone else. I think it is (yet another) indication that I need to have a better grasp on the concept of grace.
So maybe it’s just me whose angry. Maybe I’m angry at God. Maybe He’s just sad for me. And maybe that’s all okay. Maybe that doesn’t so much change the journey as it does just add another element.
I like Naaman. I feel a kinship with Naaman. There’s more, but it’s unrelated to this part, and it’s a discussion for another post and another day.