All the Jesus followers have a similar experience to Thomas’s. They just happen to be together in one place at the same time when Jesus comes to them. Thomas stands out because of his absence, and he pointedly tells them he doesn’t believe their story.
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘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.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’ [from John 20]
The soul space Thomas has allotted for faith is already full. He already knows everything he needs to know. The things he’s been taught from birth that have come down from the ancestors. The experiences he’s had in synagogue and religious instruction. The teachings of rabbis. He made a little more space, or at least tried to, when he learned from Jesus all sorts of things that seemed different—not to take the Sabbath so seriously, to avoid hypocrisy, to consider God’s heart in addition to the Law.
But this? It feels as though his whole group of friends has become, well, unhinged. As though reality has lost its meaning. At least any reality he’s experienced.
When he agrees to go back with them to the house, he’s determined he’ll stick with only what is real. But reality takes a sudden turn. New receptors in his soul are switched on, making space for him to see and receive things that a few moments earlier were invisible, incredible, and unacceptable.
As people of faith, we often believe and act as though our faith is fixed. Finalized. We’ve had enough life-changing, life-shaping experiences, thank you very much. And so we unintentionally shut ourselves off to things that force us to grow. Growing is sometimes difficult and painful, because it often requires us to let go of something we’ve believed or held dear for a long time.
We stop learning. We stop expanding. We stick to our ideas, not ever examining the origins of those ideas or where they are located in our souls. We become afraid of (even demonize) people whose very lives challenge us because they come from a different place, geographically or emotionally, politically or metaphorically.
Honestly, having static souls is normal and understandable. But this story calls us to make space for things that feel abnormal, for things that we may not ever fully understand.
When we make soul space for unfamiliar people and experiences, our very hearts, lives, minds expand. We become fuller. We grow into greater faithfulness. Our inner selves are amplified.
In this Easter season, let’s emulate the open-hearted disciple by making space in our souls for new people, new experiences, new faith.
© 2017, Melissa Bane Sevier