Struggle. Yes. Do I struggle? Yes. What am I struggling with now? Depends on the day. Usually it's a nice cocktail of parenting woes, wounded ego, body battles, and just plain discouragement. There is no one big “thing” in my life right now but check back with me in an hour. ;) Whatever the daily struggle may be, a few years ago God impressed a certain truth on my heart and I revisit it often. It gives me the courage to lower myself into the struggle and let it wash me with the cleansing waters of humility. I pray it can encourage you to do the same...
In this particular season I had been a bit discouraged with parenting. Specifically, with my three-year-old’s behavior in Sunday School at church. We had done the sticker charts, rewards, treats, sp-nking, time-outs, praise and applause and jumping up and down. We’d talked about it, cried about it, prayed about it. And it just wasn’t working, and quite frankly I was weary. I found myself dreading every trip to church, dreading the check-in time when inevitably my son would morph from darling boy into “dangerous shark”, dreading the pick-up time when I would hear that he took off his shoe and threw it at someone (yes, that really happened), dreading the look on the teachers’ faces when they see him arrive.
I felt like going to a therapy meeting and saying, “Hi, I’m Kari, and yes, my son is ‘that kid’.”
“Why this, Lord? I’m busting my tail at parenting. I read all the books, try all the methods, pray pray pray. I study the Word, I teach him Bible verses, I spend all day with him. This is humiliating and I feel like everyone’s an expert on this except me. Why am I apparently the only one failing in this area? I don’t want to be the mom of the bad kid! How on earth can I be a women’s ministry leader and Bible teacher if my son clocks people in the head with his shoe?!!”
Then I remembered something a friend had said:
“It’s very humbling to have ‘that kid’, isn’t it?” Oh boy is it ever.
The next night after the shoe-throwing incident we were doing our little family devotional time with the kids. We were all snuggled in bed and my husband was reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible. The story, which we'd a dozen times before, was of Naaman, the very important commander of the Syrian army, who was sick with leprosy, and sought the healing prayer of Elisa the prophet. But instead of Elisha coming out to greet him and bowing down to Naaman in honor, Elisha doesn’t even come out of his house, but instead sends out his servant who tells Naaman to simply wash in the stinky, smelly Jordan river seven times. Now Naaman was indignant, saying,
“I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 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 5:11-12)
Then he turns in a rage and storms off.
Do you hear the pride? Naaman wanted God to heal Him using Naaman’s methods, methods that reinforced his own pride and met his expectations of what miraculous healing should look like.
Who finally speaks some reason into this prideful heart? Interestingly, Naaman’s humble servants:
“But [Naaman's] servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it?”
In other words, “God has given you a clear directive for your healing and restoration. Are you really telling me you’re too proud to do it?”
Am I too proud to do it?
How many times had I prayed, “God heal me of my pride. God sanctify me. God grant me humility. God grant me a teachable spirit. God help me connect with the real needs of women around me. God help me grow in maturity and wisdom. God reveal areas that are sinful that need Your touch. God heal me of my selfishness, heal me of my insecurity, heal me of myself.”
He answered: Go wash in the Jordan.
Go wash in the murky, stinky waters of a toddler’s rebellion and embarrassing misbehavior. Go wash in the murky water of trial and error, of charting unknown waters, of trying new things that oftentimes don’t work. Go wash in the waters of humility, in the waters of asking others for help, in the waters of exhausting repetition and consistency. Go wash in the waters of faith and not of sight.
“But Lord! I’d rather wash in the crystal clean waters of Bible Study. I’d like to grow in my sanctification by…hmm…how about blogging? That’s a fun way to grow! Or perhaps by really successful speaking engagements, that’s fun too. Or by really encouraging, deep, meaningful times in the Word each and every morning. That would be fabulous. Or perhaps I could even just read a few good books, underline a lot, and then have the whole thing down pat. That’d be great. But these waters? The waters of the Jordan? These are stinky and smelly and humiliating.”
But these are the waters of life. Finally, Naaman saw the error of his ways, and in verse 14 we read,
“So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
And I continue to wash in those waters in different ways.
When the word of criticism stings: Go wash. When you have “that kid”: Go wash. When the loneliness overwhelms you: Go wash. Whatever is stinky and smelly in your life may actually be the means of your salvation.
Believing this with you today. Thanks so much for reading.
Kari Patterson juggles the hats of pastor’s wifey, preschool mommy, speaker, teacher, writer, mentor, friend, daughter–occasionally dropping them all on her crumb-covered floor. (It’s ok, really.) She celebrates the Sacred Mundane over at KariPatterson.com.