I still remember the incident well, though it happened about 15 years ago. I was one of a group of musicians, some of them professionals, who were participating in a public choir and music performance by my church. It was a big celebration with multiple performances and we had spent a number of months preparing for it. As the piccolo player, I had the lead on Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, which featured prominently in the performance. The first day of our public performances, the minister of music came to me and apologized. When the program was printed, my name was left off. There wasn’t time or funds to get them reprinted. I was furious. Since I was already there and there wasn’t time for another plan, I performed that first night but I was steamed. Afterwards, showing my lack of maturity both as a Christian and as a person, I told the minister of music that I would not be in any of the rest of the performances. I knew the second chair flute could handle the part and I was done. So for the next few days, my wife went to the performance (she sang in the choir) and I stayed at home and stewed. My argument boiled down to 3 points: (1) I was a member of the church who had committed from the very beginning of the project, (2) I was the lead for my instrument, and (3) I was a soloist. My pride had been injured and I wouldn’t stand for it.
So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, 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?” So he turned and went away in a rage. But his 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? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 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. – 2 Kings 5:9-14, ESV
Naaman, a mighty general, needed help and folks pointed him to Elisha. When he showed up at Elisha’s door, Elisha couldn’t be bothered to meet him face-to-face. Instead, Elisha dispatched a messenger to tell Naaman how he could be healed. What the messenger said was preposterous: go and bathe in a river, the Jordan river, seven times and Naaman would be healed. I’m sure Naaman was taken aback at the lack of recognition of who he was. Naaman was used to people waiting on him. He was conditioned to expect people to go out of their way to please him. Elisha’s refusal certainly didn’t put Naaman in a good mood. Then the advice Naaman received seemed ludicrous. Elisha didn’t propose a medical treatment, didn’t offer sacrifices on Naaman’s behalf, or even pray over him with the laying of hands. Naaman was instead told to go bathe in a river. How was that going to do anything? He couldn’t see the logic in it and became furious. It was very much like this Israelite was trying to make a fool of him. However, Naaman’s people prevailed, calmed him down, and got him to heed the advice of Elisha. As a result, Naaman was fully healed.
Naaman’s pride almost resulted in Naaman going back home no better for the journey. I think God was working on Naaman’s pride because of the actions of Elisha and Naaman’s servants. Because Naaman heeded his servants, he swallowed that pride and went and did just as Elisha told him to do. It wasn’t logical, but he did it anyway. As a result, God restored Naaman’s flesh. Naaman was healed. Naaman didn’t let his pride cost him dearly. I didn’t check my pride and it did hurt me. Not only did I miss an opportunity to play for the glory of God, not only did I strain a relationship with a man I respected greatly, not only did I miss opportunities to build bonds with fellow musicians in a new town, but I also managed to strain the relationship my wife and I. She knew I was wrong. She loved me, but had her own part to play in the celebration. My pride caused me to miss out on some great things and it caused me to hurt folks close to me. I let my pride get in the way and it was very, very costly. I can’t go back and undo the damage of my selfishness and pride.
I think about that situation every time I start to feel a little too “big for my britches” concerning anything I do. I remember very clearly, a couple of years later when I was able to trade a few words with that minister of music and was finally able to ask for his forgiveness. By then he and his family had moved on to another church, one that was out of town. What could have been a couple of years of building a great friendship I dashed with a single night’s prideful actions. Most of us have a story like this. We can’t undo the past. We can, however, try not to repeat it in the future. Don’t let your pride get in the way of what you need to do. Don’t let your pride get in the way of what you are called to do. Instead, master it and submit yourself as humbly as you can to God. The alternative is not pretty. You’ve likely been there. Pride in this fashion is a sin and we must master it. Otherwise, be prepared for the damage your pride will cause around you.