With hockey and basketball season ending and football season starts, it reminds me of one of my childhood dreams… to score the winning goal, basket or touchdown. I think many young men have that dream. As much as we might deny it, we have to admit it: most of us long for the dramatic. We would love to be—or see—the one who makes the winning touchdown, star in a great movie, writes a best-selling book or play, saves someone from drowning, or becomes an astronaut. Many of our daydreams or longings focus on the spectacular. Why?
Maybe because we feel that our ordinary accomplishments are not very signiﬁcant or important. In 2 Kings 5, we read the story of Naaman. He had leprosy and almost miss his cure because he was looking for something dramatic. Naaman was a great warrior and a captain in the Syrian army. Although he was prestigious—a man of power, position, and wealth—he suffered from the dread disease of leprosy, which in biblical times had no known cure. A slave in his home, who was from Israel originally, told Naaman about the prophet Elisha in Israel who could cure him.
Naaman almost missed the miracle because he expected the prophet to do something spectacular. He had sent expensive gifts ahead to Elisha, which conveyed something about his status, wealth, and power. Elisha did not even go out to meet him but simply told him to go and dip himself seven times in the Jordon River.
Did Naaman say, “That’s great! I can easily do that.” No, he was highly insulted and exclaimed in anger: “Why should I wash in that muddy river? We have two rivers in Damascus that are far superior to this one.” He was ready to go back home when his servant said to him, “Master, think for a moment. If the prophet had asked you to do a difﬁcult thing, you would have done it immediately, wouldn’t you? Well, the prophet has asked you to do a simple thing. Try it and see what happens.” So Naaman went down into the Jordon River, dipped himself seven times, and was cured.
Naaman almost missed being cured because he had anticipated that the prophet would do something spectacular. He looked for an extraordinary answer to his problem. I think many of us are like Namaan today. We often miss the working of God in our lives or in our church because we are constantly looking for something spectacular, extraordinary, dramatic, or unusual.
While we look for an extraordinary vision of God, we miss the divine presence in the lightning on a stormy night, the movement of God’s spirit in the evening breeze, in the fragrance of the ﬂowers, in the multicolored hillside in the fall, in the slumber of a newborn baby, in our regular worship or quiet devotional reading of the scriptures, or in the needs of those around us. The longing for the spectacular may cause us to miss the presence of God in the ordinary world all around us.
Naaman’s childishness, immaturity, or self-centeredness blocked his vision of the varied ways God can work. When the instructions from the prophet did not conform to his expectations, he was angry. He likely felt that he had not been given enough recognition or notoriety, and in his anger, he almost walked off. His servant showed more maturity when she suggested that he should not overlook this request simply because it was a simple one. In many ways, all of us act at times like we are still children, especially in our expectations of God.
The Christian pilgrimage is a call to maturity. Maturity for the Christian is continuous openness to God’s Spirit however and in what ways God may lead us. Maturity is learning to serve God without a desire for recognition. It is to see a task or need and to do it or ﬁll it without seeking to call attention to oneself. Maturity is being willing to serve in an obscure place, aware that God alone may see that service and declare it great. Maturity is serving without waiting for anyone else to praise us or notice what we do.
If you go back to the text again you will see that God can turn any place into a shrine. For Naaman, God took the dirty Jordon River and turned it into a miraculous shrine for him. Naaman thought that God’s shrines—God’s holy places—were only in Damascus. But God used an ordinary river to produce a miracle.
Keith Miller wrote about a friend of his who decided he would visit some of the great religious shrines to see if he could discover something about their experience with God. He visited Aldersgate, where Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed by God. He went to Wittenberg and found the spot where Luther had a dramatic experience with God. He visited several others but could ﬁnd nothing spectacular about any of them. He found that these “shrines” were just ordinary, common places. When he got back, he preached a sermon titled, “Any Bush Will Do!” That is the way God works.
Go a step further and notice that God can work through very ordinary means to bring about healing. In this portion of Scripture, we read that God used water to heal Naaman. Naaman dipped seven times in the ordinary Jordan River water, and his healing came. In an age that puts its focus too often on the large and spectacular, from large bank and stock accounts to the biggest armies and the most atomic weapons, to the largest house or biggest church building or megachurch memberships, we can get lost in this fallacy of “bigger is better.”
The sad note is that many people lose sight of the fact that many of the most important things in life are accomplished by persons like you and me as we labour daily in our ordinary, common tasks. When God comes into a life, the most ordinary or routine task or place can become extraordinary. It may not appear that way to the eyes of the world, but it in the eyes of God, it is extraordinary.
Jesus touched the lives of some simple ﬁshermen and called them to come and follow Him. And those ordinary ﬁshermen became a part of the force that pioneered this movement we call the Christian church to herald the good news of redemption through the centuries.
Hopefully, God can give us eyes to see and ears to hear to sense the extraordinary dimension in the ordinary world all around us. When God touches something or someone with His divine presence, it is never ordinary again. Any ordinary or commonplace can become a shrine where God can communicate with us. Remain open and teachable.