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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Story Time

While hanging out a group of friends recently, I had an extremely flattering experience. Somehow somebody mentioned my blog in passing and the other three people chimed in with their opinions and how they liked it. And I was flabbergasted (that word deserves a comeback and it captures the emotions of that moment perfectly) to the point where the friend who brought it up asked me “did you not think anyone actually read it?”

Partially. I mean, I see the stats confirming that my site gets traffic, but I still don’t think I’ll ever get over the shock that people beyond my supportive family would actually take the time to read my writing. But the thing that shocks me the most is also my absolute favorite thing about this blog: that the people who read it are the never the type you’d expect.

What I mean by that is, most blogs that have any sort of religious affiliation/religious words in the title only get read by people in that niche, people looking to read something explicitly religious or dealing with a political issue from a religious perspective, etc. But the majority of people who read my blog aren’t Catholic- and that’s awesome! I mean I’m always willing to share my faith because I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, but so much Catholic/Christian writing is geared towards other Catholic/Christian readers. That is not in itself a bad thing, but I see no reason for exclusivity. Because when I read Catholic/Christian writing it makes sense to me because I come from that background, but I worry that to the atheists and agnostics and people with no identifiable religion such pieces would look like Mandarin (i.e. another language), and they give up on it/become as discouraged as I would be if someone ever asked me to learn fluent Mandarin. (I picked Mandarin as an example specifically because I’ve heard that it’s difficult to master and is not a romance language so the same rules I’ve always followed when learning a language in the past would not apply).

So when I write my blog I get so excited when non-Catholics read it because learning a religion is a lot like learning a language in that before you can speak it confidently you must first learn to decipher what it means from a variety of sources, written text, verbal communication, in context of culture and community, and often in light of the ancient origins as well.

And I’m glad that even non-Catholics can come and enjoy what I’ve translated so far because with God each chapter somehow becomes better than the last. And the adventures I chronicle on this blog I am happy to share with whoever wants to wander the path along with me. Because I’ve always believed that time is our vessel, not our dwelling place and that the essence of true religion is simply a soul’s journey home. And the more that share the road with me the better the better the story becomes.

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Flower Child

So I’m enjoying getting back to the lighter side of blogging with posts like “the journal” because I can only offer so much unsolicited societal commentary and defenses of my faith before I need to take a bit of a refresher. Because I notice it’s exactly like what happens if I sit and watch the news too long, I start to feel weighed down by the various scenarios happening in our world because I see the darkness behind them and wish I could do more.

But it’s not my job to save the world. It’s already been saved and I really do believe that everything will be okay. Because I believe in heaven.  And I think the more you believe in heaven, the more you start to see it while here on earth, little glimmers of light, like candles on a birthday cake in a dark room. Except that they illuminate something far more beautiful than an earthly birthday party. And it gives me hope to gaze at the little flames, sometimes leaves me in awe as I ponder exactly what the bigger picture might be. Because I truly don’t know. I just trust that it’s something good. I trust that it will ultimately be God. And I trust most of all that, whatever that looks like, I won’t be disappointed.

Because the truth is this blog was not started so much for the forum as it was started for me. I wanted to chronicle my own little spiritual journey (I’ve changed a lot in the past year or so) and I wanted this to help me remember, to help me stay on track, and to remind me why I’ve chosen to live the way I choose to now, basking in the little moments like a child and sharing each of them with God. It’s delightful. I highly recommend it. It takes tremendous faith, but the more I let go the more Jesus Himself comes to meet me, and it’s so great. I’ve gotten to the point where I want to give up more and more, because I want more of Jesus. He’s sort of fantastic. Understatement; but everything is an understatement when you have something that’s too good for words.

Anyway before this post makes you feel even more awkward with how personal it is, and potentially how outlandish it might sound to a culture that leans towards atheism/moral relativism, I wanted to get back to the inspiration behind the post which was this (you can see the former humanities major in me, it took me north of two paragraphs to get to the point): I’ve seen a few blogs that mentioned posting pictures for flower Friday.

Is this a legitimate thing that people do?

Because if it is I am so in!!!!! I absolutely love flowers/nature in general and I will happily use any excuse to feature more photos of them on this blog. My sister makes fun of me because whenever I get excited I get really happy to the point where my sister will sarcastically suggest that I summon my animal friends (it’s funny because it implies that I’m like one of those old-school Disney princesses…) Yup, my sister’s clever. In fact, you should hear the wit that flies around an average family dinner at my house, especially when we’re all together.

So here’s to my first flower Friday!

Enjoy, and be sure to tune in later for more optimism.

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