Happy Easter to you!
"Saint Thomas Putting his Finger on Christ's Wound" by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
This morning in church, introducing his sermon with this Caravaggio masterpiece, our pastor Mike Tilley told the story of doubting Thomas. He was the disciple who wasn't there when Jesus first appeared to the others on the day he was resurrected. Even though the others told him about it, Thomas said he wouldn't believe it until he saw it for himself, until he could feel the wounds on Christ's body. Jesus appeared again about a week later, suddenly in a locked room. Nothing could keep him out! The thing is that Jesus didn't chew out Thomas for doubting. He greeted him with "Peace be with you!" and invited him to see and touch the wounds so he could fully believe. And when Thomas saw him, he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" I think he got it right that time. Thomas understood his relationship with God personally and he also responded with a heart of surrender, acknowledging Jesus as his Lord.
Mike encouraged the doubters among us to freely come to God with our honest questions. There is more than one kind of doubter.
Some aren't sure that there is even a God, or that Jesus is God. I remember, as I once wrote in a poem, "looking for a skylight in the floor of my upside down world." I not only didn't believe in God, but I was mad at Christians for trying to tell me about him. I was quite some doubter. Maybe you are, too. There is nothing wrong with exploring the historical evidence to find out if what the Bible says is true and asking God if he is really real. Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, both solid skeptics, dared to do this -- and ended up convinced of the claims of Christianity. McDowell later wrote the books Evidence that Demands a Verdict, More than a Carpenter, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door and many others. Strobel penned The Case for Christ, The Case for the Creator, The Case for Easter, and more.
Other doubters, also like me, have served God for years, even decades. I've been a Christian for 35 years as of this July. I have read the Bible all the way through multiple times, memorized large portions of it, read hundreds of Christian books, gone to church nearly every week, served on missions and evangelism teams, taught Sunday School, home schooled my 10 kids, written Christian books/e-magazines/blogs, and talked about God to groups of people more times than I can remember. Do I have all the answers by now? Not by a long shot! I have my own perplexing questions about God, too. There are times that I just don't understand what he is doing or why. There are times when I am angry at God and wonder if he is really a loving Father after all. Is he really good? Is he really just? Will the burdens ever lift? How badly will I mess up, and will he be able to fix it when I do? Does he really have it all under control? Will it really come out all right in the end? With all of the varieties of Christian teachings out there, some of them at odds with one another, how do I know what to believe and how to behave? And how do I take what I know in my mind and make sure that is seeps all the way into my heart, too, so I can trust him? Lord, have mercy!
Fortunately, God is big enough to handle angst, confusion, and cynicism. And it helps to know that devout Christians throughout the centuries have faced the same doubts and spiritual insecurities. It is just reality until we get to Heaven and see him face to face. For now, it's better to be honest, wrestle the doubts, and ask the hard questions, even while knowing it's not all going to come clear until eternity. For me, it helps to read the Bible and pray, even when it is hard to sense God's presence. Another thing that is an immense encouragement is to read and hear the testimonies of other believers about how God has been faithful and real in their lives during the most difficult times. And oddly enough, getting out there, putting one foot in front of the other, and serving him the best I know how somehow draws me even closer to him. I don't always know just what I'm doing when I start out, but seeing God work through me -- in spite of me -- is something of a miracle to behold.
I am thankful, too, that the good folks of Lake Baldwin Church welcomed me in when I was feeling more than a bit lost in transition last year. It's been a safe place for me to be just me. Even a few simple hugs and kind words from my sweet sisters-in-Christ there gave me a powerful boost toward more faith this morning. God might not be moving in spectacular ways, but I think he's at least whispering tenderly in my ears.
Peace be with you!
P.S. If you haven't read my other Easter posts this week, you can click here: Holy Week.