The Baptism of the Ordinary

His life seemed laced with a golden thread. A commander of the army of the King of Syria. A great man, held in high favor, he had experienced much victory due to his valor. Yet one dark thread threatened his peace and prosperity: he had leprosy.

Naaman likely saw this as the growing black mark on his otherwise glowing life; however, God graciously used what he thought was a harbinger of death as a doorway to life. What he thought was an obtrusive inconvenience was ultimately God’s gracious invitation.

God used his leprosy to heal of him the more dangerous pride that was deadening his soul as leprosy was deadening his nerves.

A servant girl, captured from Israel, a small and unimportant nation, another notch on the belt of the Syrian army, initiated the process that lead to his healing. That he, a captain and a wealthy man of Syria would heed advice from a female servant from Israel would have been a blow to his pride and a lowering of his position. But desperate times call for drastic measures.

With pomp and circumstance, he loads up his impressive caravan and heads to Samaria with a letter of recommendation from the King of Syria himself. How little he understood the God from whom he sought healing! Caravans and crowns, prestige and position: these meant little to him. He required humility and faith, two things that money cannot buy.

He went first to the King of Israel, with money to impress and bribe, only to be redirected to the simple, side-road house of the prophet Elisha. Much to Naaman’s chagrin, the prophet did not even greet him directly, but rather sent a message to him through a servant, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored” (2 Kings 5:10).

His pride injured and insulted, Naaman fumed, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:12).

Yet again, servants spoke sense to him. They bid him humbly honor the prophet’s request. Naaman laid down his wealth, his pride, and his national sentiments. He washed himself seven times in the muddy waters of the Jordan, and he came up healed, body and soul.

Ordinary Means, Extraordinary Means

While I don’t have leprosy, my soul is sick with pride. A true product of a culture that holds power, privilege, and wealth as the highest ends, I want to be special. I want to stand above as someone set apart.

Yet, the same Lord that bid Naaman wash in a common river, bids me to be washed in the muddy waters of common life. He bids me lay down my pride and position daily as a wife and a mother. He invites me to entrust my worth and identity to him as I follow the ordinary routines of grocery shopping, laundry washing, and carpool driving. Like Naaman, the acts of service the Lord bids me to obey often offend my sensibilities. There is little shininess or flash to such common acts of household and neighborhood service. The only caravan involved here is a caravan to sporting events.

However, these small, seemingly insignificant acts of obedience are killing the pride that is killing me. They are invitations to trust that God does beautiful things through common means. They are opportunities to actively believe that, through the means of small, ordinary, common acts of faithfulness, God is doing an eternal, lasting work. He is sanctifying and shaping me into one who deeply resembles him, even in the innermost parts.

Our salvation was secured by Christ. In baptism, we have been united to him in both his death and life. However, our sanctification involves regular baptism into ordinary, common acts of faithfulness. The Holy Spirit both invites us to lay aside pride and prestige, and enables us to dunk in the dirty waters of everyday obedience. In so doing, we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

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