Stuck Between Two Unsatisfying Stories

By Tyler Staton Thomas is my favorite. He’s always been my favorite. I know Thomas. I am Thomas. Thomas wasn’t a fiercely rational cynic. To think of him that way would be to minimize a whole life down to one single moment, which is always a mistake. This is a man who left everything behind […] The post Stuck Between Two Unsatisfying Stories appeared first on Bible Gateway Blog.

Stuck Between Two Unsatisfying Stories
By Tyler Staton Thomas is my favorite. He’s always been my favorite. I know Thomas. I am Thomas. Thomas wasn’t a fiercely rational cynic. To think of him that way would be to minimize a whole life down to one single moment, which is always a mistake. This is a man who left everything behind to follow a self-proclaimed Nazarene rabbi. He risked everything for Jesus. He witnessed miracles that left him rubbing his eyes in wonder, but he also faced rejection, confusion, and public disgrace for associating so closely with one who was called a criminal. The very week of Jesus’ crucifixion, Thomas steps forward in a critical moment to say he’s ready to die with Jesus. He was ready to die with his rabbi, but he wasn’t ready to live without him. And that’s exactly what Jesus asked Thomas to do when he wouldn’t say a word at his own defense hearing and took the death penalty like he was planning it all along. Thomas isn’t a cynic or even a skeptic. It’s so much more personal than that. He’s disappointed. He’s hurt. Imagine pushing in all your chips, like he did on Jesus, and then the story ends in the kind of heartbreak so far outside of the realm of possibility that it blindsides you completely, leaving you in the kind of daze you never want to feel again. That’s the Thomas we meet in his famous declaration of doubt. He’s hurting. He’s confused. He’s guarded. Life on his own terms wasn’t enough; that’s why he risked everything on Jesus in the first place, but how can he be the King of the everlasting kingdom from within a casket? Thomas isn’t a doubter; he’s a realist—calling it like he sees it. “So the grave’s empty, huh? Well, that’s great, but I’m gonna need a lot more than that. If the rest of you are so desperate to believe, then go ahead, but I’m gonna piece together my actual life in the actual world. And if laughter, beer, and sex is as good as it gets . . . and if suffering is senseless and death is final and none of it amounts to anything more . . . then at least I had the courage to face it.” Thomas’s resurrection reaction reads like God picked up a thirtysomething from San Francisco or Berlin or Melbourne or Brooklyn and sat them down in first-century Jerusalem on that defining Sunday morning. I’m not sure I understand the experience of seeing someone alive on Sunday who was definitely dead on Friday, but I certainly understand the skepticism of hearing other people spread a holy rumor like that one and categorizing it as religious well-wishing at best. I see myself in Thomas. I see my friends in Thomas. I see my city in Thomas. Stuck between two unsatisfying stories. Now Thomas . . . was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” John 20:24–25 In essence, Thomas is saying, “If God wants me, he can come get me. I’m not hiding.” Thomas was a realist—a strong-willed, fiercely logical realist—and that earned him a nickname: Doubting Thomas. That’s a modern invention though. His given name was Didymus, but everyone who really knew him called him by his Aramaic name—Thomas, which translates to “twin.” The Twin—that’s what all the other disciples called him, and it suits him . . . because, in a way, he’s all of our twin. Thomas is modern Western culture personified. A whole hemisphere is stuck between two unsatisfying stories. The citizens of the industrialized Western world enjoy more personal freedom, leisure time, career options, and entertaining distractions than anyone at any other time in human history, and yet the increase in personal autonomy and freedom hasn’t led to increased happiness and fulfillment. Diagnosed and medicated mental illness has grown almost exactly parallel to these factors. The world’s freest, wealthiest, most autonomous people are also the world’s most anxious and depressed people. Is there anyone you can identify with more in the Gospels than Thomas? Regardless of how you’d categorize your particular brand of belief or unbelief at this particular moment, plenty of us could say right along with Thomas, “It’s not enough. The meaning I’ve tried to drum up for myself in this life is not enough to still my restlessness, but to be honest, I’m starting to think an empty tomb is not enough either.” Two Stories Caught in a Single Frame Early on a hot summer morning in the mid-1970s, Philippe Petit walked across a wire suspended between the iconic Twin Towers dotting the Lower Manhattan skyline. It was a spectacle. Almost exactly 27 years later, two commercial flights were hijacked and steered directly into those same Twin Towers, bringing them to the ground with thousands of casualties. It was also a spectacle—of the very worst kind. A photo was snapped during Petit’s jaunt across the wire that was meaningless for nearly three decades but then became iconic: a commercial plane caught behind the balancing man on the wire appears to be flying much too low, almost like it will hit the towers. Two moments that seem logically a lifetime apart are caught in a single frame. The stories overlap for just a moment. That’s what happened to Thomas. The story of the world and the story of Jesus seemed incompatible on resurrection morning. It was wishful thinking for any true realist. Then, for just a moment, the stories overlapped in a small upper room hideaway in central Jerusalem. Thomas, disenchanted by an empty tomb, encountered the presence of the living God. That’s the invitation for you. ________ Adapted from Searching for Enough: The High-Wire Walk Between Doubt and Faith by Tyler Staton. Click here to learn more about this book. A unique and validating look at the tension you feel between disillusionment and a desire for truth, Searching for Enough helps you see your doubt not as an emotion to fear but as an invitation to be followed. Do you ever find yourself thinking, “I’m not enough, and I’m never going to be. And I know I’m not supposed to say this, but God’s not enough for me either.” Whether or not we attend church, deep down we wonder if the biblical story of faith is really enough for the complexity of the world in which we live. We fill our lives with other things, hoping that maybe the next experience or accomplishment will complete us. Yet with every goal we reach, we still feel discouraged and anxious. In Searching for Enough, Pastor Tyler Staton draws on ancient and modern insights to introduce us, as if for the first time, to Jesus’ disciple Thomas: history’s most notorious skeptic. Like Thomas, we are caught between two unsatisfying stories: We want to believe in God but can’t reconcile his presence with our circumstances and internal struggles. But what if there’s a better story than shame? What if there’s redemption so complete that there’s nothing left to hide? What if there is a God who can heal your resentments, fears, and loneliness in such a profound way that you feel whole? From a place of spiritual companionship and deep authenticity, Tyler shows us that it is not an empty tomb that will change our lives, but the presence of the living God. Whether you are a distant skeptic, an involved doubter, or a busy but bored Christian, Searching for Enough invites you to find enough in a God who offers the only promises that never disappoint. Tyler Staton is the lead pastor of Oaks Church Brooklyn. After relocating to New York City in 2010, he led a youth ministry among the urban poor for five years before planting a vibrant, growing church in one of the city’s most creative and culturally progressive neighborhoods—Williamsburg. Tyler lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Kirsten, and their two sons, Hank and Simon. The post Stuck Between Two Unsatisfying Stories appeared first on Bible Gateway Blog.