Friday, March 3, 2017

Doubting Dawn - Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, and Forgery on CNN

The lot is drawn.

These words are spoken by Peter to Thomas in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas which chronicles the travels of the apostle Thomas from Galilee to India to spread the story of and teachings of Jesus Christ. Or at least that's what we learn in season two of "Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, and Forgery," which premieres on CNN this Sunday, March 5, 2017. Poor Thomas. He's already struggling to understand, to believe, to make sense of the death and resurrection of his friend and teacher...and now he has the bad luck to draw the straw that will send him to what was then seen as the end of the Earth, more or less.

And he does not want to.

At least according to the re-enactment in the episode of Finding Jesus I had the opportunity to screen, he at first refuses, leading Peter to say the words above: "The lot is drawn." Dumb luck or destiny, Thomas is stuck. He and his fellow apostles have been commissioned by Christ to "make believers of all nations."  In his case, to do so means leaving family, friends, the only home he has ever known to travel to a foreign land with no idea how he will be welcomed. He has already seen his friend slaughtered for teaching an alternative to the prevailing belief of their land. We know that Thomas is a man of reason who has been challenged by Jesus to act out of blind faith rather than relying on reason and evidence. How hard it must be to walk blindly into the unknown for him! Yet, as our documentary points out the Acts of Thomas suggests that, with the help of a little con game by Jesus and a night of prayer, Thomas faithfully accepts his lot and brings Christianity to India.

Like Thomas, I have found myself in a crisis of faith. I still don't know if it was just the dumb luck of my husband finding the right job in Chattanooga or if it's destiny that brought us here. Either way, I have not wanted to be here. Well, maybe at first. I did sort of blindly assume it would all be okay. But that wasn't due to my faith in God. It was more about my belief that I could make it all be okay. Unfortunately, it hasn't all been okay. The fresh start I was hoping to have in certain parts of life has been harder to achieve. My kids were deeply saddened by leaving their friends and the familiar comforts of the only home they've ever lived in. I threw myself into trying to help them adjust. I worked with them to focus on the things they liked about their new school, our new home, their new friends. I worried. I prayed for them to adjust. And they did.

It never occurred to me to pray for myself. Or focus on my spiritual needs. I just kept feeling a sense of emptiness, loneliness, and loss and listening to the voice that told me it was all my fault. I gave up my job, my friends, a church I loved, a deeply gratifying role as PTA President. And despite having all of my physical and material needs met...I felt so empty and hopeless, sinking deeper into a growing depression that had been intensifying over the last few months. I kept thinking that I needed to make myself find a job and get up and out so I could meet people. The fact that I couldn't make myself find a job or make new friends was another failure and a reminder of my worthlessness. Like Thomas, I was driven by reason, believing I could think my way through my blocks. It took hitting rock bottom two weeks ago to realize that I needed to be doing more than trying to think my way through. I needed to unify all aspects of my being – mind, body, and spirit.

So, in addition to reading, listening to podcasts, and trying to think my way into action, I've gone back to having a daily practice that is good for all parts of myself. I've renewed my commitment to a healthy diet. I'm exercising. I'm trying to let myself feel all my emotions instead of denying the anger and sadness I felt guilty for feeling. And perhaps most importantly, I'm trying to slow down and find time to quiet my mind through meditation and prayer. And in that prayer, I'm acknowledging that I am not alone as I thought. I still have to take action but I can ask God to help direct my action and to help carry the weight of my loneliness and brokenness.

Clearly, like Thomas's, mine is a reasoned faith. I had to figure out what wasn't working and why, then take the necessary actions to start trying to create the life I am meant for instead of the one I dumb-lucked into. The story of Thomas reminds me of the hymn that goes "Here I am Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me." As I mentioned in my previous post, I've changed tacks, headed in a different direction than I intended.  I certainly feel that I am being nudged in the direction of doing work that is in service to others somehow. So, like Thomas, I'm stepping out in faith, couched in the reasoned knowledge that this feels so much better than the alternative of carrying my burdens alone, and trusting that I'm on a path that will bring me greater joy, a sustainable income, and allow me to help others live better, happier lives.

I'm so glad I watched this screener of Finding Jesus. I can't wait to watch every episode starting this Sunday! It was just the right way to start my Lenten practice and gave me the perfect reminder to stay the course like Thomas – not a skeptic, but someone who fought his doubt for his belief. Also, I learned a lot! This isn't just a docudrama with lots of cute British actors. They have actual renowned historians, religious experts and theologians from Oxford, Columbia, Duke, Harvard, and Notre Dame including my favorite Catholic priest, Fr. James Martin, SJ. Check out this trailer to see if you're interested:

Also, I invite you to share the challenges you are facing in the comments below. Or, if you have a story of overcoming doubts and challenges in your life, I would LOVE for you to share that as well. Your story could be the one someone else needs to hear right now! And I have a little incentive for anyone willing to share their story.

Everyone who comments below, likes my Facebook page, shares the Facebook link for this post, and follows me on Instagram will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Lifeway gift certificate. I will do the drawing on Monday, March 6 and notify the winner that day. 


Kimberly Mathis said...

I always doubt that anyone will want to join one of my groups, or will want to come see me for counseling. It never fails. That doubt ALWAYS shows up.

Dawn said...

Thanks for commenting, Kimberly. This sounds a lot like the imposter syndrome we talked about in our Collective. I know it's scary to launch a new undertaking and every time you start a new group, I'm sure you go through the same thing. Just remember it's a marathon, not a sprint! And your clients love you! As you'd tell me, ask yourself if it's true. : )