These things could happen, but I have my doubts …


Column by Jim Bishop

It’s rather unsettling. Just when I start to scrawl ideas for another article in my church bulletin, our interim pastor Shirley Yoder Brubaker corrals my wandering mind with another sermon zinger:

“I don’t usually title my messages,” she states, “but were I to label this one, it would be ‘sacred ambiguity.'”

Speaking on the theme of doubt, Shirley maintained that “we’ve been too hard on the Apostle Thomas, the disciple who refused to believe that Jesus was alive after being crucified unless he could see the nail wounds in his hands and touch his sword-pierced side (John 20:24-29).

“He’s been dubbed ‘Doubting Thomas’ because of this response, but might that be preferable to being a person who routinely believes everything he sees and hears?” Shirley asked.

“We live with sacred ambiguity,” she continues. “Within doubt lies the seed of faith.”

“What is it that we give our heart to? That is what we believe,” she told the congregation. “In the midst of questioning, something least expected may speak to you and your need at the moment.

“Just keep saying, ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief,’ and eventually the puzzle may come together for you – in God’s good time,” Shirley said. “This takes longer for some than for others.”

It’s not difficult for me to identify some recurring personal doubts:

– That many political figures running for public office will actually fulfill their campaign promises once elected. When the political pie is sliced, it usually winds up 90 percent for them, 10 percent for you and me.

– That the “sunny tomorrow, high in the low 80’s” weather person’s forecast will actually be accurate.

– That the check for the free-lance article I sweated over to meet the quick turnaround deadline is really “in the mail” as promised.

– That the doctor will be in to see me “in a minute.”

– That gas prices will ever be lowered.

– That the quality of current television fare will improve proportionately with the changeover to the sharper images of high-definition broadcasts.

– That government leaders will ever see the futility of resolving ideological differences with other nations through “military solutions.” Such responses, as conflict transformation veteran John Paul Lederach often says, are “like stomping on dandelions that have already gone to seed.”

Why am I so quick to form doubts and so reticent to let them go? Probably because, like Thomas, I am hesitant to believe what I can’t hear, see or touch for myself. Or, because I tend to put faith in someone and they fail to deliver on a promise, or some purchase I made didn’t perform as advertised.

A recent message on the marquee in front of Weavers Mennonite Church along Rt. 33 speaks to this conundrum: “Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark.”

Supposedly, things are darkest just before dawn. I think about times I’ve awakened to pitch darkness and hear the first bird start its serenade. Then, the tune is picked up by another. I can’t see them, but their hopeful melody amid the stillness gladdens my heart.. A new day, full of possibilities amid uncertainties, is about to unfold (as the radio alarm, set in “gentle” wake-up mode, joins the chorus).

As our Lord said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Let us scatter the seeds of faith amid our doubts. Morning has broken . . .

Jm Bishop is public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at bishopj@emu.edu.


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