I am a recovering cynic.
I can admit it to myself, now that I have some clarity about my professional future. The decision to move to Dakota Wesleyan University this coming June is a huge one for me, but also the right one. And now that the weight of uncertainty has been lifted off me, I can see that I had been traveling down the dark road of cynicism.
That’s not to say it wasn’t an honest path. I have blogged and written for several years about the dangers inherent in the new systems adopted in my current annual conference, and in many others across the country. In my observation, those dangers have manifested themselves in both administrative chaos and a loss of collective identity, clouding not only our mission, but also our very way of relating to one another.
But just because something is true doesn’t make it good mental fodder. And as I prepare to leave for a new ministry setting, I realize that, while I still think my observations are true, the way I held them was toxic.
Somewhere along the way, I became a cynic. I reacted to the systemic problems I saw by assuming that everyone involved (myself included) is caught up in self-interest. I gave up on people. I lost hope.
But, as he has done in many other ways, Thomas brought me back into the light.
Last week’s lection belonged to John 20, the story of Thomas and his doubts. I have always hated that this reading appears the Sunday after Easter. Perhaps it’s inevitable, though. The disciple known mostly for his doubts about the resurrection gets assigned to a week in which few people show up to church, and probably fewer pay attention.
But Thomas is the most important disciple in my spiritual journey. We forget that, when Jesus set his eyes on Jerusalem for the Passover, Thomas was the one who urged the other disciples to go with their Lord, despite the dangers. “Let’s go,” he said, “so that we may die with him.” Loyalty and courage. That’s what I want to be known for.
I even count Thomas’ famous doubt to his credit. He has the intellectual honesty to stand on what he sees, despite the pressure of his friends. He was not one for cheap buy in, which never leads to anything good anyway.
Thomas was a skeptic. He needed to see the story, not just hear it. I can relate entirely.
But this year, I see something new in Thomas’ story. Although he did not believe his friends, neither did he stop believing in them. He did not write them off. The next time they met, Thomas was still with them. If he had not been, he might never have seen Jesus alive again.
Throughout my adult life, I have clung to Thomas as my patron saint. I have questioned, doubted, been skeptical, asked questions. I think that is a part of my calling from God, and I will continue to do so.
This year, however, Thomas says something a little different to me. He reminds me to keep the faith, to not lose heart, to not give up too soon. To be a skeptic, but not give in to cynicism.
That may not be an easy path, but it’s one much better lighted. And so far, the going is infinitely more pleasant.