on questions and not being there for the experience

We all get annoyed by the folks who go together and have an experience very unique to themselves and have to hear about it afterwords. While superficially we are excited for them, we struggle to share their same enthusiasm on the matter leaving us lacking in our own excitement.

This happens when students come back from a mission trip or a preacher comes back from a conference. They have seen something new, something different from their own context. What has always been true has been challenged in some way and their eyes are seeing new. While they struggle for words to paint a picture of their own life-changing epiphanies, we don’t really know what to do with it.

Because, we were not there. Even if we are supportive and excited for them, we will never really have a real grasp of what they experienced. Usually these experiences come in a group setting where they share an experience with all of the insider language and common practices that come with such an event.

I know how this goes. My job is to often explain what happens in our teen support groups to potential donors and supporters to our organization. While some are excited about it, they really don’t have an idea for what we do.

I feel like Thomas in John 20 can be given a little slack for doubting, especially in the context of “not being there”. You see, he was absent for Jesus’ initial appearance to the disciples. How unfortunate, really. Everyone else happened to be there and he missed it. So, when they came up all excited about something as unlikely as the resurrection of a dead man, you can understand why he might even have a sliver of doubt.

He wasn’t there. He had to see it. His questions had to be answered.

People are like that, aren’t they? You are like that. Our eyes are really powerful. They are 1/5th of our abilities to interact with our physical world.

So why as Christians are we so afraid of doubt? I think part of it comes down to the fact that we don’t give ourselves a lot of leeway. When we doubt, we feel bad about ourselves. When we question, we feel less stable.

And here is why: when we doubt and question, we do so in isolation. As Allen wrote so effectively yesterday, our churches are not places where doubts and questions are welcomed.

We can’t miss a crucial part of the John 20 narrative: Thomas doubted in the presence of this fellow disciples. He spoke aloud the questions he had on his heart. Doubts and questions were met with the power of community.

What if our churches were less threatened by questions and doubts? What if these things were more a mark of a healthy church? What if we didn’t judge the health of a church by the numbers of people or size of the offering, but by the quality of the questions being asked?

That would be totally upside down and counter-cultural. And, I would venture to say, quite healthy.

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