You want to know one of the hardest things about being in the ministry, for me? (I’m about to get really real with you here.)
It’s not the people or hearing all their problems. I love that part. It’s not the pouring out and pouring out of my heart over and over. It’s not having that pouring out dismissed or belittled. It’s not sermon writing, worship set prep, or practice. It’s not study.
If I’m honest with you, the hardest thing about ministry is not having the freedom to doubt.
I have a very dear friend who in recent years has walked away from church. She doubts. And I envy her freedom to wrestle with her doubt. (How’s that for getting real?)
I am Thomas. I am the one who needs to stick my hand in His side over and over again. I’m the one who, with flushed face, has to ask again to see the scars.
“Can I touch them again?” I ask Him.
And because of how I grew up, I am afraid to ask Him this over and over.
But each time I ask Him this question – Can I touch them again? – He lets me do it.
I hate that I have to keep asking. I have a logical brain. Sometimes that logical brain can explain away a lot of things it’s supposed to believe on faith. And that scares me immensely. Because if I can explain away all of this – this that I have given my life to – this that countless others have paid great prices for – than what is left?
But my logic can’t explain away the blood.
Each time I doubt, each time I ask him again how I can know for sure, he again invites me to see His side. He invites me to see where He bled.
My moments of doubt rarely result in me being shown His power. It usually doesn’t come through miracles or grandiose displays of authority. It usually comes in Him again inviting me to touch His scars.
I remember when I was small, one of my parents would come in to pray with me each night. I loved the way my dad’s veins stuck out of his hands. I would push on his veins as we talked. In the same way, I imagine touching those scars. Turning His hands over and over. Running my fingers along the keloid ridges where skin healed over nail. Just sitting. Quiet. Considering.
His answer to my doubt is not a booming voice or a showy miracle. It’s a simple extension of His hands, a reminder of redemption, a silent moment where I remember there is nothing but the blood of Jesus.
And my logic can’t explain away the water.
He invites me to remember the water that spilled from his side, baptizing the feet of those who crucified him.
Baptism always makes me cry. I think it makes me cry because I doubt. But seeing someone in that tank or in that river or pool telling who they were in the before, telling me again who Jesus is – that shows me His scars again.
Every time I see someone pushed down under the water and raised to new life in Christ, my logic fails me. And I am baptized again. Pushed under into rivers of grace, rivers of second chances, rivers of new life. I love that tears wet my face every time I see it – it’s like Jesus is baptizing me again and again and again. And maybe you’re good enough that you don’t need to be baptized again and again and again – but not me. I need it over and over.
And the same water that God uses to symbolize new life – that little tank we are pushed under – that same water exists in infinite amounts when I look at the sea. It’s so deep that what is at the bottom scares me. It’s boundless. That is new life times infinity plus one – grace beyond grace beyond grace.
When I doubt, He shows me the water again. He drenches me in new life, again drowns the old me, and washes me with clean water.
I think part of the problem with doubt is that we always think we are alone in it. We are scared and confused and on top of that, we think we are alone. And we feel stupid or sinful for even thinking it.
If you doubt, you are not alone. I think we can’t help but doubt, especially the longer we are on this journey. We think we have it figured out and then the bottom falls out. Or something happens to someone that doesn’t line up with the neat box we had just built for God.
But so far, in my life, the blood and the water keep washing over me just when I think I’ve figured things out. And I have changed more times than I can count – not in spite of my doubt, but because of it.