Friday, August 12, 2011
Do Not Be Unbelieving, But Believe
There’s something special about being a twin. There’s a bond that’s hard to describe, but understood, I believe, only if you’re a twin. When my brother and I were younger, we were best friends. We shared the same experiences at the same time. Now, along with this close relationship came difficulties. For starters, we shared the same experiences at the same time. Although this could be nice, it also led to people comparing us. We were known as “The Twins.” We were so much a pair that I would often unknowingly answer in the plural even when I was the only person around. Once in kindergarten, the teacher asked me to move to a different desk, so my brother decided to move with me. He thought he was supposed to.
We were a pair, but as we grew older, we wanted to be treated more as individuals. This is something you really have to work hard at if you’re a twin. I read somewhere that maybe this was why Thomas was away at the time. Did you ever wonder why the other disciples had locked themselves in a room, but Thomas was out and about? Was he the bravest one? Maybe Thomas was trying to sow his wild twin oats. Maybe he needed to get away where he could be thought of as an individual and not as “the twin.”
Regardless of why Thomas was away, I do know for a fact that all of his descendants ended up in MO. Thomas said, “Unless I see the marks of the nails in his hands and put my fingers into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Sounds like a true Missourian to me. His descendants had to have ended up in MO, which is known as “The Show Me State.”
In fact, since having twins runs in families and since Thomas’ descendants ended up in MO, and since I’m a twin and I’m from MO, that must make him my great, great, add a few more greats, uncle or grandpa.
I certainly can relate to his disbelief and wonder if I can blame that on genetics. Many times, I do blame it on my MO heritage, but Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
I’ve been reading a lot lately about living in the present moment. I’ve either been reading more about it or I’ve been in the present moment enough to be more aware of reading more about being in the present moment. The idea is that when one feels fear, like the disciples who had locked themselves away, or worry or regret or in Thomas’ case, doubt, to take a deep breath and focus on the present moment. Somehow we’ve lost our focus on God by worrying about the future or brooding about the past. God, as we know, is a God of the present. In the present is where we meet God, not in the future with all its worries and uncertainties, not in the past with its mistakes and regrets, but here in the present.
I know what you may be thinking, “I’ve heard this before. Easier said than done.” We’re called to not just hear it or to think it, but to live this way – to live focused on the present moment. The disciples, however, were wrapped up in their own fear and had taken their eyes off God.
Jesus came, breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” In Genesis, God breathed life into Adam. From God’s breath, we were created and given life. Can it be that when Jesus breathed on them, he was giving them not only the Holy Spirit, but also new life - new life to see things in a new way. New life filled with peace and the ability to forgive sins.
This sounds wonderful. It sounds reassuring. They’ve seen the Risen Lord. He’s brought them peace and has breathed new life into them. That should be enough to get them going. Why is it a week later they are still in a locked room?
Does this remind some of you of your teaching days? You tell your students something and a week later, it’s as if it never happened. Or you come back from spring break, and it seems like it’s the first day of school again as the students get reaccustomed to the rules and routines.
Learning something new or living in a new way takes time and repetition. It takes falling and getting back up. The disciples didn’t get it the first time. We certainly don’t get it the first time. One thing I enjoyed learning when I came here is that it’s a lifelong journey. Thank goodness. Learning that certainly took a lot of pressure off.
Thankfully, we are all on this journey together. It takes daily prayer and lectio. It takes reading and living the Rule. It takes faithfulness to spiritual direction and yearly retreats.
Over time, we grow and change. Some of the changes in our lives are drastic, but many occur slowly over time like the way the rough edges of a rock are worn away from constant and steady drops of water.
We may not get it the first time, but our God is a patient God who keeps coming back even when the doors are locked. We’ll still have our doubts from time to time. We’ll still come up with excuses, like blaming things on genetics, our environment, our personal background, or in my case, my MO heritage, my being a twin, or my being a descendant of Thomas, but how fully are we living in the present moment? How fully are we believing and trusting in God?
Jesus comes in our midst and reassures us, “Peace be with you.” He is always present, breathing new life into us. Jesus tells all of us, even those of us from MO, “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.”