The leap of faith is probably present in most gamer’s lexicon due to the Assassin’s Creed series, and for good reason. Whether it is your first time or your thousandth, the leap of faith is a thing of beauty. After a long, arduous climb to a height from which a fall would be more than fatal, your character scans the horizon and then performs an acrobatic dive into the safety of a bale of hay or something else similar in purpose. From the challenge of the climb to the breathtaking view that typically unlocks additional areas of exploration once completed, the leap of faith is both an exciting and vital part to not only the Assassin’s Creed experience, but many other games as well.
Remember the first time you had to make that massive jump in world 8-2 of the original Super Mario Bros.? It just kind of came out of nowhere… as you are speeding towards the castle with your eyes on your final confrontation with Bowser you suddenly saw a giant gap appear in front of you, longer than any gap you have had to face up to that point. In uncharted territory and with trembling hands you take a running leap towards the jump without any idea what lies beyond it. These leaps of faith are quite common in games, but they are just as prevalent out here in the real world.
It is highly likely most of us have heard the phrase “Doubting Thomas” at some point in our lives. Regardless of a person’s belief in Christianity or the Bible, this nickname found its way into the modern vernacular with a staying power that rivals that of any current catch phrase. Think about it… we may not remember what a “lol” is or what “doing the stanky leg” means two thousand years from now, but a full two millenia later Thomas’s nickname yet endures. Why is that? Was it truly doubt, or something far deeper than Thomas experienced? Let’s find out…
The root of this story comes from the Gospel of John chapter 20, when Jesus has just been unjustly tried, savagely executed, and his followers scattered for fear they will face a similar fate. Thomas, one of the disciples of Christ, has just witnessed all of these things come to pass thanks to the cruel betrayal of one of his fellow followers, Judas. After three years of eating, sleeping, and traveling together with Jesus, Judas, and the rest of the disciples his entire world has been turned upside down and it was impossible to know if anyone could be trusted right now. He had given up his job, left his home, and was now potentially on the most wanted list. Suffice to say, Thomas’s frame of mind was a bit mired in darkness at the moment. So when the surviving ten disciples came to Thomas and told him that they have not only seen Jesus but are certain that He is alive, they are met with one of the most infamous phrases in the Bible…
John 20:25 So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
Now it would be easy to immediately judge this statement and Thomas along with it and classify him as “Doubting Thomas”, but is that really true or fair? Did any of the other disciples believe when Mary told them about her tomb experience with Jesus previously? Not so much. The others only believed because they had personally interacted with Jesus previously. So the real question then becomes… Well then why wasn’t Thomas with the other disciples when they saw Jesus? And now we get to the heart of the issue. This was not a case of Thomas deciding he did not want to believe… Thomas was simply too hurt to launch out on another leap of faith after hitting the ground so hard the last time.
Consider this… Thomas had already performed a mighty leap of faith. He jumped in with both feet when Jesus called him to follow him. He followed Jesus in John 11 when the disciples went to go see the recently deceased Lazarus, even as he stated in John 11:16 that this would likely lead to his death. The issue was not merely doubt… it was that Thomas was not prepared to believe again because of the hurt that he was carrying from the disappointment he endured. Judas didn’t merely betray Christ… he betrayed Thomas and each of his fellow disciples as well. It was hard enough to know and witness that his Lord had died, but to endure this due to the betrayal of a friend was even more unbearable.
I am sure each of us can relate to this. It is easy to make the climb and take the leap when your heart is full of hope and your spirit is buoyed with faith while triumphant music blares in the background. It is even easier when you have loyal comrades marching with you to take the leap by your side. But that is so rarely the way this Christian walk works. More often it is a lot more like the path of Thomas… your way becomes blurry because the hopes and dreams you were holding onto were murdered before your eyes and someone you trusted the most betrayed you when you least expected it.
In that situation, it is not your doubt that is blinding you, but your PAIN. Doubt is merely the symptom… a natural response similar to when you instinctively move your hand away from a hot stove because it has burned you before. The fear of taking that leap of faith only to fall painfully to the ground again is a powerful deterrent that paralyzes many of us and locks us into a holding pattern at the top of the pyramid. Just like in Assassin’s Creed, we can see the places we would like to go from this vantage point and the world of opportunity that awaits us, but the pain of our previous hurt can keep us too grounded in our pain and disappointment to try again.
So maybe we can cut Thomas a little more slack. Perhaps even remove the label and just call him “Thomas”, because if we were in his shoes it is entirely possible we would have had a very similar response. I know I have. The first leap of faith isn’t the hardest… it’s the second one. It’s the one after the betrayal and the heartache. It’s the act of choosing to reach beyond your pain and making the decision to climb back up and leap once again. The fall was not fatal, because you are still here. And our Lord, in His ever abundant grace did not condemn Thomas for his human frailty. He came specifically to see Thomas and invited him to placed his hands into the Lord’s nail scarred hands. And if you look carefully, you will see He will do the same for you.
The fact that you are still here, living and breathing, means your story is not yet over. And while He may not show you in the way that Thomas experienced it, His nail scarred hands are still holding you, even now. So go ahead. If He told you to jump, then prepare to make the leap. Everything you see from this vantage point is merely enlightening your next destination. As Thomas was about to find out, this was nowhere near the end of his story, nor is it the end of yours. There is still so much left to do.