Everyone’s advice for writing is to “write about what you know.” Most of the time, that’s a good word – write about what you know so that the words feel real and raw, not like something you’d make up or buy pre-packaged from the grocery store.
Here is what I know for sure right now: It’s cold, even though I can hear the sound of the artificial fire place, I really want to eat my grapes, and my water bottle is pink.
Maybe that’s not exactly what people mean when they give that well-intended writing advice.
My favourite disciple used to be Thomas, because of his doubts. His story is found in John 20:24-29. I remember the first time I read about him, and I thought, now there’s a disciple I can get on board with. I probably would have done the exact same thing as him; instead of trusting blindly that Jesus was in fact, resurrected, Thomas demanded to see the holes in his hands.
Jesus goes on to tell Thomas that it is much better to believe without seeing, but what I like about this story is that he nevertheless lets Thomas feel the wounds in his hands.
We can get quite scared of our doubt, I think, quite scared of our questions. We can look at the faith of the people around us and question why it is that they are so willing to lay themselves down before God because hello, we still have a checklist that we need to get through, some answers that we need to sort before we get down to the whole surrendering-everything ordeal.
Thomas was surrounded by ten peers who had already seen Christ resurrected, and had ran back to tell him what they had seen. Thomas must have felt like the outsider to some joke – you guys are fooling me right now, right? I don’t believe it. You’re either pulling my leg or delusional.
And maybe in the back of Thomas’ mind, a small voice was saying, “what about me? Why didn’t Jesus appear before me?”
The thing about Thomas was the he didn’t try to blend in with his friends, didn’t try to copycat their faith for his own (you know how we tend to act and talk like the people we hang out with? I have a similar theory for our faith, that we can begin to act and talk our way through a faith that looks exactly like the person’s beside us, which sort of goes against everything personal about a relationship with Jesus), he was just straight up. In fact, even when he was face to face with Jesus, he was still honest.
I want to believe you. Show me your hands, Jesus, or I don’t think I can.
Jesus stretches his hands out to Thomas, and lets him see and touch the nail marks in his hands. I think Thomas must have been hoping that the words of his friends were true, so his relief may have been quite overwhelming.
Jesus knew what Thomas needed in that moment was for him to reveal his hand. Not a parable, or a sermon, just the open palm and the wound.
Thomas is a lucky guy. I wish it had been me, sometimes, who got to see Christ’s hands for real, in the flesh, with the circle-shaped wound and the peaceful expression. I wish it could be that easy sometimes, that my questions could be answered with a complete certainty.
Sometimes I have more questions than answers. Sometimes I have a feeling of the presence of God so thick, sometimes I have nothing more than a shrug and a “well, I know he’s told me to love my neighbor, and that’s about all I can manage today so we’ll just accomplish that.”
I’m not afraid of my questions, because I don’t think God is afraid of them. I don’t think Jesus was offended that Thomas asked to see his hands. I don’t see a God who reprimanded his disciple for not having a firm faith, I see a God who stretched out his hand.
Maybe the stretching of the hand looks different for everyone. Maybe for some it looks like an overwhelming sense of peace, for some it looks like a word. Maybe for others it looks like silence, silence as a call to wait, silence as a call for us to be still, a frustrating silence that begs us to continue our pursuit of God. Maybe that is part of his call for us, that we would refine and reconstruct our faith in every season, that we wouldn’t grow sleepy or half-hearted and his silence is the response to our prayer for a deeper relationship because he knows, he knows, that the ones whom he entrusts this particular response to are the ones strong enough to bear it.
I don’t know if all the questions I have will be answered as I get older. It’d be nice if they did, but sometimes I find myself thinking that I don’t really care anymore. Let those questions be there; God is a lot bigger than my questions.
Sarah Bessey wrote in her book Out of Sorts, “I pray you would find God in all the days of your life, in all the callings, in all the places. I pray for the holy to invade you daily. I pray that your eyes and your heart would be open to see where God is hiding in plain sight. Instead of waiting for your real life to start, I call you to wake up! Wake up! Your life is happening, this is where God has placed you. May you become a parable of hope and renewal right where you are..You are so very loved. I pray you would remember it, know it, live it, breathe it, rest in it: beloved.”
That’s what I know for sure. Despite everything else, no matter what I say, whether I feel it or not, I know it. Beloved. On the days I can feel it, I’ll grin and remember it for the days when it’s just a thought. And I know it for you, too, whoever’s reading this: you are his beloved. No less than that. It is what makes you who you are.
Here’s to all of us living in 2018 and unable to see the wounded hand. I salute you. Sometimes the going gets tough – and when it does, rest. You have been chosen by God.