Doubt hangs everywhere these days. Back in your time, just after that first Easter, you had to go against your peers to express doubt; it likely took courage. Today, it is the opposite. You'd fit right in.
Back then, when the disciples and friends rattled on about the empty grave and having sighted Jesus, you maintained your cynicism. "Prove it!" you said. Maybe, you had been tricked when you were a kid and laughed at for your gullibility. Maybe, you wanted so badly to believe that death isn't really the end and you couldn't bear to be disappointed. Who can blame you for that?
Today, people doubt that the planet can survive with us on it. We doubt the media, politicians and the weather forecast. We doubt that the economy will turn around, that solar panels and windmills make sense. We doubt that ‘going green’ is affordable. Mostly, I think, we doubt ourselves — the very goodness that we were born with. It's a doubters' world, Thomas.
It's understandable, I guess. Watching hope evaporate like so much smoke from a burnt match can be unbearable. Hospital halls echo the stories: “So sorry to tell you. . . . We've run out of options.” Hopes for technological fixes crash: “terminator seeds kill bees. . . . Water treatment plants fail . . .”
It can be discouraging. But then I recall that snake story about Moses in the desert. You would have known it, too. Everybody was mad at their reluctant leader because they'd been wandering around in the heat, swarms of bugs and uncertainty for decades. “What next,” they demanded. And then, the answer came: poisonous snakes. There were people dying all over the place. So Moses made a bronze snake, hoisted it up on his staff and said, "Look at this and live!" He commanded them to look at what scared them most. I love that upside down story. I love it because its message has helped me to be strong when I wanted to cave-in to grief. Is that what you were trying to do, too? Did you want to look at the terrible wounds of your beloved rabbi Jesus so that you could go on?
I don't know if you keep track of things like this over where you are, but this year, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai
became an honourary Canadian citizen. Born in Pakistan, Yousafzai was an outspoken child advocate for education for girls. For this, the Taliban shot her. I imagine her in her hospital bed when the bandages were removed, looking into a mirror, and touching her own young, wounded face and head. "I told myself, Malala, you have already faced death. This is your second life. Don't be afraid; if you are afraid, you can't move forward." Yousafzai travels the world now, speaking out with courage, confidence and creativity, bearing her message of justice for girls.
Thomas, you took a risk expressing your doubt out loud in front of friends. You said that you needed to see it to believe it, and Jesus accommodated you and you reached out. Then, you were able to carry on. Tradition says that you even found yourself in India, planting churches that still continue to this day. But you know all of that.
Your story reminds me to move through the fog of fear, doubt and cynicism — not only personal doubt, but the societal web of doubt making optimism seem quaint. To touch the wounds of what is sacred to us — of neighbours and strangers, as well as of Earth, herself — perhaps we need to recognize our fear, and have the courage to reach out a hand and touch the wounds. Only then can we move on.
— CarolynThis is the sixth in Carolyn Pogue’s “Letter to a Spiritual Ancestor” series.
Sign up for our free e-newsletter now!
Get The Observer’s latest stories on justice, faith and ethics by signing up for our e-newsletter. It only takes a few seconds to join and we’ll deliver award-winning content to your in-box.
SIGN UP TODAY