I can’t seem to get Doubting Thomas (or Doubting Theresa to attribute a female name to it) off my mind. Earlier this week, my mothers’ faith-sharing group discussed this part of Scripture, as we do in cyclical fashion every year. As a refresher, John 20:24-29 recounts the effects of Thomas’ absence from a gathering at which the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples. Having missed the special blessing of seeing the Lord, Thomas had only the accounts of the other disciples. His response: "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe!" A few days later, the Lord came to Thomas and said, "Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." Thomas said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" to which Jesus replied, "Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Whenever we come upon the time in the Church season when the “Doubting Thomas” passages emerge, I become more alert. It has always intrigued me, this idea of belief and non-belief. As a baptized “cradle Catholic,” the seeds of faith were both planted within me and nourished at an early age, well before reason was within my grasp, or I could hold up my own head, for that matter. And certainly, my parents weren’t perfect teachers of the faith, no more than I am to my children. But what they gave me was enough to lay down a good base that would draw me back to the faith of my roots again and again. Because of this lifelong seed-nurturing, which came from many different sources (though first from my parents), I feel like I have an unfair advantage. Faith is something that has seemed to come quite naturally to me. And while I have had doubting moments like anyone else, those moments have only made my faith stronger in the end. Yet in many ways I still feel like a child, searching with eyes wide open in wonderment.
I think this explains in good part my draw to Jennifer’s words at Conversion Diary. It’s one thing to talk with other cradle Catholics about the faith journey (though, certainly, we’ve all had our wandering moments of questioning), and quite another to hear from someone who had no need for faith (in fact, thought it was all a fairytale) until a few years ago. And I keep coming back to a post she shared a few days back, in which she described a moment of pondering some cucumber sprouts in her windowsill, likening them to her faith journey; seeing their lean toward the “sun” much the same as believers leaning toward the “Son.” It was a short but thoughtful post, but just as interesting were the comments that followed. In several of them, her premise was questioned. In essence, the comments challenged her contention that information, instruction in particular, cannot come from a non-intelligent source.
As I read the more negative comments after having just been so inspired by her post and the visual she presented of those little green sprouts leaning toward the light, I felt sadness in my heart. I understand the need to question. Most (but not all) believers have an innate need to get things right in their brain before they can get it right in their heart as well. But to me, the questioning felt like someone just took a hoe and started digging up those pretty sprouts. It was like one of my children had just handed me a beautiful drawing, “Here, Mama, this is for you,” and another of my children, in a jealous moment, took that same painting and ripped it to shreds before I could even hold it in my hands.
I was among those who left a comment on Jennifer’s blog the other day, and in it, I said this: The thing about faith is that, while you need to make logical sense of it up to a point…sometimes, you just need to take the plunge. You look at those lovely little sprouts reaching toward the sun, and you know, somewhere down deep, without thinking too much about it, that it is symbolic for something inside of you that is also reaching for light. At that point, science and religion can join together in a full embrace, because the same source created both. We can analyze and analyze and analyze, and then there is a point at which we just turn our face toward the sun and smile.
You see how it all comes back to the Doubting Thomas? It is natural for us to ask questions. In fact, more often than not, our faith is heightened through doubt once we’ve come to understand. But I find it an unfortunate result of deep doubt that those who paint a picture of love and present it to their maker might also be forced to watch as it’s stomped on and destroyed by another who could not quite make that same leap of faith.
Doubt we must. It is a part of our human nature. But it can go too far and stifle the most beautiful things of this world – even a simple cucumber sprout.
I’ll have more to say on this soon. Until then, have a lovely weekend, and don’t forget to enjoy all the beautiful things around you, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.