I've been writing all week about the story of Naaman from 2 Kings, who really could be n-a-(any)-man. I know he's me; have you found your story in him, too? And I've been writing about story and the simple things, the way God changes us through the simple even though such things are rarely easy.
And why have I been writing about such things all week? Simple.
Because I'm standing on the banks of the Jordan and my story has changed.
To be honest, I've been standing on the banks of the Jordan for awhile now, longer than I could probably admit without embarrassing myself. Or maybe you would be encouraged to know just how long I've been standing here, looking at the waters that God said would cleanse me. Too disappointed to even stick my toe in.
I, like Naaman, have been disappointed that God wasn't going to make a better show of this. I have been so broken, so burdened by certain circumstances that it seems unjust for God to just offer healing, and a simple healing at that, without the spectacle of the awesome miracle of God. I, like Naaman, have expected the miracle and waited on God to show Himself in the inarguable abba-kadabras that bring the full power of God to crush my circumstances and I get to just sit around and bask in the awesomeness that it is to be His.
Then God says something so silly, so simple, as "wash yourself in the Jordan," and I'm disappointed.
It's a question of belief. Faith, maybe you'd say. Circumstances like these, they crush us, but it's more than that. Under the weight of the heavy burdens of this life, belief is a dangerous thing. You're always looking, always hoping, always believing that the next thing is the thing and that the end is in sight, or at least just around the corner. You get all of these false answers, false healings, false moments, and false hopes that keep you believing that it doesn't have to be like this, only to be convincingly shown that it will always be like this. And then you pray. God, you pray. You pray your heart out and cry until your eyes are about to fall out of your head, and then you pray and cry some more and finally, finally you come to this place where God is obviously there and this is obviously it and this is the moment and this is the thing.
Then God looks right at you and says, "Believe."
Believe that if you do what I tell you to do, that you will be healed. That this will be your moment. Believe that I am guiding you in truth and not one more false path. Believe that I am who I say I am and that I'm doing what I say I'm doing. Leave this place where you're standing right in front of Me. Leave My obvious presence. And in faith, in hope, walk to the banks of the Jordan and wash yourself. In the waters, I will make you clean.
Let me tell you something - when the moment finally comes, when the day is here, when healing is upon you after years of the burden of questions and false hope, the last thing you want to do is dare to believe. You don't even feel like you have the strength to believe one more time. I know for so long, that has been my struggle. How can I believe again when I believed before when there was nothing worth believing in?
It's simple. This time, there is something worth believing in. Simple, but not easy.
Which is how I have found myself standing on the banks of the Jordan for what seems like far too long, holding onto my ideas that there ought to be a better show than this. Holding out hope for a God of miracles who would come and just take care of this so powerfully, so undeniably, that I wouldn't have to dare to believe again. Thinking about the other solutions that seem just as good, the other waters in my own homeland that seem purer somehow than these. Waters that maybe aren't healing, but at least they are home. They are a place that I know, and doesn't familiarity matter for anything?
Thinking....that I would have done anything God asked me to for the sake of my cleansing except that it doesn't seem He asked me to do anything. This...this seems like nothing at all. It's so simple.
It wasn't that long ago that I decided to test the waters. It wasn't that long ago that I dipped in a toe, just to see what it might be like to wash in the Jordan. It wasn't long after that that I dove right in and cleansed myself in the water, by nothing more than God's simple graces. And now my story has changed.
Can I tell you? I am having the best spring I've had in at least a decade, maybe my whole life. I am thriving under the mercy of a faithful God who waited in the waters for me to dare walk into them. And it feels like He sent me out walking on them. I wake up blessed every morning, energized, confident. I feel loved. I mean, I feel loved. Perhaps most importantly, though, I have found the hidden mercy in God's simple things. It is this:
I've found the strength to believe again.
I can't tell you how important that is. I can't tell you what that means to a heart that has too long been crushed. I can't tell you what difference it makes to have an honest hope and a daring heart that chooses to believe...well, just to believe. If you've never lost your ability to believe, you don't know what I'm talking about. If you've lost it and refound it, you know just the feeling. If you've lost it and don't think you'll ever get it back, I'm telling you that you can. You can believe again.
You just have to...believe...again..... Just one more time. And then do the simple things.
I'm hanging out on the banks of the Jordan these days, for at least a little while longer. Not because there's more in the water for me, although maybe there is, but just because I'm not quite ready to leave this place yet. Not because I'm questioning the way my story's changed but because I'm still kind of feeling it out. I'm working out the kinks of telling a story that has changed but hasn't started over, of living a new life in a day-to-day that's not all that different. Except that it is. Somehow.
And I'm hanging out hoping that one day, you, too, will dare to believe again and at least come to these shores. You don't have to put your toe in, and I won't push you. But just come on over and hang out. As long as you'd like. It's just a short walk away.