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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The Goof 

So there is an instructor who works in my real estate office and loves to give me a hard time about absolutely everything. He literally comes to the office each night when he has a class looking for a chance to sass me (probably because he knows I can’t resist rising to the occasion.) An interesting friendship has developed because it somehow manages to be fun even though we have absolutely nothing else in common.

This backstory is important in order to understand the context of the upcoming confession.

I was waiting for my ride to pick me up from work one night and I saw this same guy’s name and phone number on the whiteboard for his class. I ended up writing “for a good time call” above it purely for my own amusement.

I thought about leaving it there but in the spirit of professionalism erased my addition.

However, that minor moment of silliness was nice to me. I feel like it’s the essence of who I am in my soul coming out. I don’t know why I’m a goof like that but I always have been. Even in those rare moments where I manage actual kindness that glimmer of mischief remains and reflecting on that makes me miss St. Pope John Paul II who also had said glimmer in his eyes.

The only way I can think to describe it is having an inner life much like that of a child because it was this moment which revealed to me that my endeavors to realign myself with the present moment and put down the tantalizing temptation to live in the future (and then put it down again after I pick it up once more swearing it’s the last time) have been successful.

I say this because the fruit of the present moment is joy. In the moment no one knew what I’d done except myself and God and it was a silly moment of being alive in what could have been a dreary moment of waiting after an especially long day of work.

I sometimes get all organized in my prayer life, really trying to discipline myself to do what I know has worked in the past, but lately, I remembered that the root of all my prayer life is just talking to God. Talking to God in the ordinary while I’m waiting. 

And surprisingly I think from our interactions together that God may be a goof too… 

And in that spirit this is for you:   lol.jpg

Things Great and Small

Lately, I’ve been having a lot of fun at my job. Ironically, it hasn’t been because I have an especially fun work environment, it has been because my work environment sometimes feels like the ER but with crises of a housing variety and I’m the one who coordinates all the staff, among other things.

No, the reason I’ve been having fun is because in those moments where I’m being contacted many different ways simultaneously and doing a thousand things in immediate succession, things that would not normally strike me as that big deal seem like the end of the world. So, instead of dealing with them immediately and/or being a jerk about these things to my coworkers (and dealing with the subsequent guilt of that) I decided to do something new.

Since I confess on this blog frequently about what an impatient person I am, I decided to wait. Instead of doing things in the heat of the moment I make a note and wait to do it until later once my emotions or frustrations have blown over. I take a break when I need to and do other basic things to take care of myself on the job (which is easy for some people but not always so easy for me).

And the funny part is how a lot of my “crises” take care of themselves. This little method has been shaking me out of my own perfectionism, which creeps up on me more than I care to admit. I do what I can with the tools I have and sort of go with the flow. Stepping away is helpful. While this all probably sounds rather obvious it’s not something that I see easily or frequently put into practice in the schools I attended or the places I’ve worked. With the speed and interconnectivity of everything it’s harder to get away, things are more easily blown out of proportion and most of all we live in a society that worships the act of doing.

It’s kind of a bold claim but I can point to many instances where prayer is majorly criticized by secular society because it is not seen as enough of an action. And I would go so far as to argue that it doesn’t matter what we do or how well it works in accomplishing our objective so long as it appears we are “doing” something. It’s the calm, the inaction that really offends because it shakes off that sense of urgency and importance and, as in my case, reveals that humbling and humorous truth that the world is a lot bigger than we are, and stretches far beyond the little problems and difficulties that we encounter in our day.

Even the larger scale problems that affect not one, but many, lose that sense of doom when I remember to have a perspective that stretches beyond myself and my limited abilities to include frequent prayer and trust in God to do even what feels impossible. To be glad that God is bigger than me and believe that He works everything out for good in its time.  Maybe the trick is just being willing to wait for it; to stay in tune with the graces He gives only in the present moment as we live it together.

This is what I think I like the most about prayer not that it changes God but that it changes me.