Every year it happens...I listen to the Gospel of just after the Resurrection. And I sit and think about Thomas. Usually the story makes me cry.
"But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe. A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you. Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe. Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." (The Gospel according to John)
Every year I feel some mixture of pain and shame when I step into Thomas' shoes in this Gospel. I feel as if I lived Thomas' life 2,000 years later. I want badly to believe, but I doubt. And I look for the signs around me. Some days I'm pretty good and accepting the unbelievable story of God's grace and love for humans. And other days, I must confess I think maybe we're all part of some strange cosmic joke. It's complicated. The past few years my life has become about embracing the doubts that once plagued me and accepting they are just as important to my faith as my...well...my faith is.
This year my view of Thomas has shifted a bit. This year his story made me cry. But not because I knew in that moment this man's shame. Instead it was I knew in that moment his disbelief and then his elation.
I cannot imagine being Thomas. Following the rabbi known as Jesus around. And then ultimately watching him die a horrible death. The feeling of abandonment and loss had to be excruciating. And the fear of what was next and how to go on had to be weighing the man down to the ground. So, when he hears the rumors - that Jesus is alive - well...what should we expect? There had to be a part of him that simply could not allow that possibility into his mind and heart. The news was simply too incredible and amazing.
The past few years of my life have been about trying to learn how to manage my expectations. I left a bad marriage only to find myself wandering around a bit lost. While I was hopeful I would find a partner, I really didn't allow myself the genuine hope that this was possible. And to find someone who was smart, loving, loyal...well that seemed like something that was just too wonderful to hope for.
And then I woke up from the past few years and there was someone standing there, wanting to be those things for me. I have to admit, I reacted a bit like Thomas. Unsure, doubting. Part of me was frightened enough that I had to fight the urge to run away.
Not to be misunderstood, I do think there are good things in life. And I think there is more love most days in my life than I can hold in my heart. But still, that hope. For someone to be my beloved is a really big hope for me. One I almost can't quite grasp.
So I understand Thomas differently this year. Not as a doubter who just didn't have enough faith. But as a man who was afraid to hope for something as wonderful and life-changing as his teacher rising from the dead. And ultimately as a man who cries tears of relief and elation when he finally lays eyes on Jesus and is able to touch him.
And as for me, I feel like I finally have the thing I lost several years ago. I have a real sense of hope for my future. Not as mommy or lawyer or friend...but a hope that my future includes someone amazing who can be my partner, my lover and my friend.