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between our steps 05 01 19 doubleFor the first part of his life, Thomas was known as "Thomas the Twin." Then, something happened and for the next two thousand years, he would be known as "Thomas the Doubter." According to legend, he was the most travelled of Jesus' followers, spending years in South India. But the name that sticks is the one that defines his greatest gift. Here's what happened.

The day of the resurrection, Jesus came to the upper room, the same place he had shared a last meal with his closest followers. He showed them he was alive. Women had found the tomb empty in the morning. Angels had given the news, but it took Jesus appearing before them to make the news real.

But Thomas wasn't there. We don’t know where he was—buying food, taking a walk to clear his head, escaping the sadness, praying at the temple. All we know is that he was not in the room. He came back though, and when he entered the room, the others shared their joy: “We have seen the Lord!”

Thomas was not impressed. “Unless I see for myself, unless I touch for myself, I won’t believe it,” he said.

I imagine him folding his arms and putting a defiant look on his face. Why did Jesus come when he wasn't there? Or perhaps he was more sad than angry, holding out his hands as if he could touch Jesus except, he missed the moment.

I suspect he felt left out. He couldn't share the excitement that he saw in the others. Jesus could have waited for him. Or Jesus could have gone to find him. After all, we are told that Jesus walked all the way to a nearby town, Emmaus, to explain to two followers why things had happened the way they did. Why them and not Thomas?

Facing cheerful excited people when you are angry, sad, hurting can make you feel really left out. Their joy makes your pain hurt worse.

And for Thomas, this went on for eight days. For eight days, he had to listen to the others speculate about what it meant to their lives that Jesus was alive in a new way. For more than a week, the others tried to work out how to move on given Jesus' work and theirs was not over. Thomas could not join in because he wouldn't believe. Despite his doubt, however, he stuck it out. He did not leave.

The person who wrote this story down jumps right to the next time Jesus appeared in his risen form to the disciples. This leaves a gap in the story.

The gap leaves a space for us to think about our own doubts. What would we feel like if we were the one who missed the essential revelation? What do we feel when we are in an excited group when we don’t share the excitement? What does it feel like to be with someone who has a certain, strong faith when what we feel is uncomfortable, when what is in our mind is doubt, when what we feel is uncertainty?

We don’t know what Thomas’ state of mind was for those eight days, but we do know he stayed. Whether each retelling of Jesus’ visit made him more angry or more hopeful, he did not leave. Therefore, he was present when Jesus came again. Jesus invited Thomas to put his hands on the nail holes and in the wound on his side, to touch the reality that Thomas had doubted all this time.

And then, Thomas did not need to touch after all. What he saw was enough.

Though he came to share the others' faith, he will always be called Thomas the doubter. His time of disbelief is his gift.

He was not one of those with a shining faith that is so bright and perfect that it pushes other people away. His faith was not the kind that made other people feel weak. Thomas could sympathize with doubt, could be gentle with uncertainty. We tell his story because it says that doubt is okay. Hanging on to questions is fine. We tell the story of Thomas the Doubter to reach through anger and sadness, to shine through the cracks with hope and possibility.

Cathy Hird lives on the shore of Georgian Bay.


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