1 Have a chocolate on the far side of a very low narrow passage that you’ve cobbled together. A doorway made of cardboard or two chairs with a piece of material over the top or an ELC play tunnel would all work.
Say that what you really want is the chocolate on the far side of the entrance.
Have fun building up how much you love chocolate and how much you really want that chocolate. Then walk up to the entrance and stop. You are very surprised! You can’t get through! It’s too low! Ask what you should do?
When the children suggest you get down on your knees and crawl through the doorway, you are horrified. ‘I’m a teacher! I’m a grown up! I’m far too important to crawl through that gap on my knees! Everyone would laugh at me! The other teachers would snigger at me! No, no, no – I’m far too important for that!’ Look longingly at the chocolate and sigh and turn away from it.
2 Tell the story:
You know, there was somebody else who thought he was far too important to be humble. He was much more important than me. His name was Naaman and he wasn’t just a soldier. He wasn’t just a captain. He was a Commander of a whole army! So he was very important indeed. He lived long long ago, even before Jesus was alive on earth, at a time when Elisha the prophet was the most powerful man of God in Israel.
Now although Naaman was a very important army commander, he had a problem. His problem was pretty horrible. His problem was a disease. It was a skin disease that he just couldn’t get rid of no matter what medicines he tried. Naaman wasn’t one of God’s special people, but in his household he had a slavegirl who was one of God’s special people. She respected her master very much and wanted him to get better. And one day, when Mrs Naaman was moaning about how ugly her husband looked with this horrible skin disease, the slavegirl said, ‘If only my master would go and see Elisha back in my own country! He would make him better!’
When Mrs Naaman heard this, she told Naaman, who asked the king if he could go and see Elisha. The king agreed, and Naaman left, in a great procession, riding in a chariot, accompanied by lots of servants, taking chests full of silver and gold and fine clothing as gifts for Elisha.
But before Naaman had even reached Elisha’s house, a messenger came to greet them. He told Naaman: ‘Elisha says if you want to get better from your disease, go and wash seven times in the River Jordan.’ And he went away again.
Naaman was very angry. In fact he was fuming. ‘This Elisha didn’t even come and see me in person!’ he ranted. ‘I thought he would come and at least speak to me! Wave his hand over me and say some mystical words! Instead he tells me to go and wash in this grotty river! If it was as simple as that I could wash in one of the rivers back home, thank you very much!’ And he went off in a real strop.
But his servants stayed calm. They went after Naaman and spoke gently to him. ‘Commander, if Elijah had told you to do something great and noble and heroic to get better, you would have done it. So why not do this very simple thing? Why not just go and wash in the River Jordan seven times? Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it won’t work.’
Naaman thought about it and thought about it. He didn’t want to do this simple thing – he thought he was far too important to just dip himself in a river. But in the end, he decided what he wanted more than anything was to be well again. So he swallowed his pride and went down to the banks of the River Jordan.
He did what Elisha had told him to do, even though he felt really stupid doing it. He washed himself seven times. And after the seventh time, to everyone’s amazement, his skin disease left him and his skin was as healthy as a young boy’s.
3 Sometimes we really want something. And sometimes the only thing that stops us getting it is our own pride and not wanting to lose face in front of other people, just like Naaman. If we want that thing enough, we can forget about what other people think of us. We can forget about how cool we want to appear or how important we think we are, because those are the things that are stopping us getting what we really want. Perhaps you’d like to join in a game in the playground, but your group of friends think it’s a stupid baby game. Perhaps you’d like to work hard in class, but the person next to you says it’s not cool to work hard. Perhaps you’d like to say sorry to your friend, but you think they might look down on you for apologising. Sometimes, to do what’s right or to get what we really want, we need to be humble.
And what I really want right now is that chocolate. So I’m just going to have to be humble and get down on my knees and wriggle for it!
4 A prayer:
Dear God, help us to understand that each of us is so important to you that we don’t need to prove it to anyone else.