I love this piece, Grieving Thomas, by Lauren Wright Pittman (Available on Sanctified Art). Thomas, with one eye open, is not closed to possibility.
Still, I have always wondered where Thomas was when the resurrected Jesus first appeared to the other disciples. I have had my fair share of guesses.
Was Thomas on the prowl looking for what he dared to believe not doubt? Like, maybe we have been so wrong about his cynicism and he was actually more convinced than the others; so he was out turning over every stone to find the One he knew could not and would not be overcome by death.
Was Thomas isolated with those he loved the most, like his family and twin sibling, wrestling in their grief and loss and doing their best to figure out what the next right thing was for this moment they called their present?
Was Thomas still at Golgotha? Maybe he was there undercover and pouring out in rage we also call prayer, feeling the same absence of God that was spoken by his Teacher and Friend, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…us…the world you said you loved?”
Was Thomas on an extended walk, retracing the steps and places of significance on the pilgrim road, looking for patterns and signs and answers? Was he contemplating, what did I miss?
Maybe Thomas was at the market, stocking up on the essentials and hoarding whatever you would hoard in the first century if you are preparing for a prolonged period of isolation? Toilet papyrus? Ouch. Cana wine? A bit watered down.
I could go on, and quarantine brain would likely produce some pretty psychedelic hypotheses. One thing I am convinced of, Thomas may be the disciple we need most in the midst of this Jesus story that is for us in a time of pandemic. Thomas is us.
Thomas is us because he dares to confront not sit in sorrow. Thomas speaks the prophetic and proactive unless, as in, “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.” Thomas refuses to trust alone the words of the others; Thomas insists on discovering the resurrection as his own truth, too.
What’s your unless in these difficult days of prolonged mystery and uncertainty? Go find it. Turn over stones and stories in search of the resurrection. Scroll through social media feeds and text your friends to see if there is just one ounce of redemption to syphon from the trauma of COVID-19. Watch those viral videos of good news and rally behind and pray for others on the front lines as reminders that we are actually not alone in this season of distancing. Sit alongside your children and those in isolation with you and dare to, as poet Julia Esquivel wrote, dream while awake about how to find renewed strength and courage in this marathon of hope. Breathe that clean air and listen to the quieter skies less polluted by noise and light and heavy traffic patterns. Demand to see marks of human suffering and injustice so to expose the brokenness of what once was. Then, take it a step farther and poke your own fingers into the truth(s) that now is the time (actually, yesterday and every day before was) to work towards more just and whole and peaceful neighborhoods, cities, nations, and created world.
Unless we do this, unless we become more like Thomas, we will miss Christ’s words spoken to the one who was not a doubter but a believe, “Peace be with you.
Unless we follow Thomas into the unknown, with our mixtures of fear and anxiety, cynicism and persistent faith, we also will lose out on the chance to proclaim with greater confidence than before, “My Lord and my God!”