Doubting Thomas

So recently I’ve found myself having a sincere affinity for the disciple St. Thomas or “doubting Thomas” as he’s more commonly referred to in Christian circles. He is always brought up as an example of what not to do in the spiritual life and gets sort of rebuked by Jesus who tells him “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29).

Today possibly for the first time I’m really sympathizing with Thomas. I took a minute to imagine the larger context and what he might have been feeling. Jesus who he loved more than anything, who he had sacrificed everything to follow, had been tortured and killed in an agonizing and humiliating crucifixion.  And I imagine that as Jesus died so many of Thomas’ hopes and dreams died with Him.

Thomas must not only have been afraid, thinking of his own uncertain future, but also heartbroken and feeling like everything he’d ever worked for and wanted had come to naught. Then in the midst of this nothingness, of totally black despair, he hears that Jesus is alive. I imagine he must have had so many emotions. If it was true, what joy. If it was false, he’d have to go through the emotional rollercoaster all over again. Maybe he sensed that Jesus was asking him to have faith, but maybe there was a larger part of him, of his own will and own thoughts, that reminded him of the pain he’d just endured. Maybe he could hear in his interior that broken voice of bitterness and disappointment warning him that he needed to protect himself from further hurt because God hadn’t, look where he’d ended up by following God. I imagine it must have been from this place that he uttered his line recorded in the Bible, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

I imagine I would have done the same thing. I am struggling with the same thing now. With disappointments, with expectations that weren’t met and dreams which I felt God has called me to but which haven’t come true. The little voice in my soul telling me to keep moving forward in faith, hope and love is being drowned out by the emotional barrage of doubt, pain and an unwillingness to endure more which I imagine St. Thomas was also wrestling with.  And from that place I find myself wanting to say the same thing he said.

Thomas would find out a week later with the appearance of Jesus that God keeps His promises. He would see Jesus and touch his pierced hands and side. He would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah who had conquered death for all and ushered in the Kingdom of God.

In the midst of the battle of life do we know this also? Will we choose to cling to the words of Jesus? To hope in what we do not see but which we hope with all our hearts to see? If Jesus were to come back tomorrow would he find us living in that love and in that hope which we are called to live as His disciples?

These are dark times in which we live I won’t deny it. There are struggles that affect the world and struggles that affect our own individual spheres. I personally can’t promise Jesus that I can do this perfectly but I do promise to try and have faith in the dark, to believe without seeing and to live in the hope that one day like Thomas I too will see Jesus and at last come home to that place beyond the light which I have longed to see.

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Shoot 

So there was yet another school shooting, this time in Oregon. Nine people died. You probably already knew that.

It’s weird isn’t it? Tragic for sure, but also such a weird societal shift. I remember columbine being such a big deal but now we’ve adjusted. Adjusted to mass shootings that seem to occur from a crazed lone gunman for no reason at all. And instead of treating this evil like the evil it is we listen to politicians, Facebook friends, and even, in this latest instance, the shooter’s father, talking about how gun control is the magical solution.

If only.

I hate hearing that people died from such senseless violence. I hate when people write it off as an incident of mental illness or inadequate gun laws or just a screwed up person who had a hard life and/or no control over their actions. I think it somehow comforts us in our fear. Demonizing the shooters or our laws instead of admitting that these people had choices, and they chose to kill because they hated. Whether for race or religion or some other reason in their mind they felt justified in their killing, including (usually) their killing of themselves. They didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to buy a gun and go on a shooting spree, they were normal, reasoning humans just like us who, instead of choosing to love, gave in to their lower, less noble and ultimately sinful nature. A nature that none of us are immune to, but that can be overcome by the grace of God. I think that’s why these shooters are always isolated. Because pain isolates us, and it is in isolation and darkness that hatred can best grow, because instead of our focus being on loving God and others the eye of the heart and mind turns inward on just ourselves, and from that inward gaze we recognize that we are incapable of satisfying our own desires. Even if we think we see some good, sin will still be there.

And there are two responses to this realization. We can either surrender to God and accept His infinite redemptive mercy or we can embrace the darkness and become who we are without God, little more than a lowly, monstrous creature. And a lot of people who read this will probably think I have low self esteem or an extremely jaded/cynical view of human nature. But no. I think I have an accurate/Biblical one. We’ve been so indoctrinated to think that we’re all winners infinitely deserving of good things. Yet I question that. We might all have the potential for greatness, but in order to be good we must cultivate goodness by our choices. It doesn’t just happen, we are not born perfect. I know I certainly wasn’t and I’m not going to lie to you on this blog and say I don’t have my struggles to do the right thing sometimes, but it’s important to me to not give up. And I like to think I’m getting better at letting Jesus carry me down the path to heavenly perfection instead of trying to walk it myself.

But back to the matter at hand, when we see these shooters accountability seems to be the last thing anyone looks at. No one looks into their lives and their choices. No one actually comes out and says they made an evil decision. No one ever blames our culture of death that devalues human life and claims God is not important/nonexistent. Instead they hide behind gun death statistics and political rhetoric about change. Yet the importance of loving our neighbors (to prevent the isolation I was talking about) and building strong family connections (the dad says he had no idea his son owned guns) never enters the conversation.

I don’t know I guess what it really boils down to is that I’m tired of all the false narratives and I wish more people had the courage to speak the truth.

Here’s one insignificant blogger’s attempt.