At Mass last weekend we heard the story of Naaman being cured of leprosy after plunging into the Jordan River seven times (2 Kings 14). The passage immediately before the cure story, though, relates Naaman’s expectations of how a cure would happen and his disappointment when things went in a different direction:
But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not…the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage (2 Kings 5:11-12).
How often do we have an idea of what God should do in order to meet our needs? How often do our expectations limit our experience of God? How often are we like Naaman—so certain of how events should unfold?
Naaman believed he knew the best way for the cure to happen. When his expectation was not met, he “went away angry.” Sound familiar?
I work in a cancer support center, and I see plenty of people going away angry—after a treatment does not produce the expected results, or family and friends don’t act in an expected way, or employers are uncompromising about time off or our bodies don’t rebound as we had hoped.
Letting go of our expectations can be so difficult. Like Naaman, we can be blind to the possibility of other options, stuck in our way of seeing things, certain that we know what is best.
But when we can let go of our expectations and be open to other options, we can make room for God to do what God will do. Sometimes that means a cure, but often it means a healing—of past hurts, fears or insecurities.
Letting go of our expectations opens us to endless possibilities.
During the nine months my friend Jim had brain cancer, we had plenty of experiences of unmet expectations. Surgery and treatments didn’t work—the cancer came back with a vengeance—accompanied by more complications than we anticipated. And people often said or did things that were just not helpful, usually acting out of their own expectations.
Let go were the two words I said repeatedly.
And when I could let go of my need to be right or to be in control, I saw how God was healing me in unexpected ways. I wanted to continue to live in that state of openness, so I pledged to say yes to whatever was offered.
In the year after Jim died, saying yes led to all kinds of unexpected opportunities, including a trip to Paris! Saying yes kept me open and helped me see that God is bigger than anything I could imagine.
Sometimes, like Naaman, doing the thing that seems least likely to work is exactly what we need to do.