Saturday, April 17, 2010
CARRAVAGIO'S INCREDULITY OF ST. THOMAS
Our team spends a long time unwinding on the beach of Chennai. In a few hours we'll head to the airport. I'm tired, yet I can't help my writer's imagination taking flight on this my last night in Tamil Nadu, in the southern tip of India. I watch the breakers surge, retreat, and surge again in an endless rhythm onto the shore.
Over the past 12 days I've ridden railway tracks that missionaries like Dr. Ida Skudder travelled on hundred years ago. Many times I was only a few miles from where Amy Carmichael raised her family of rescued Indian children. People like these two heroines of mine gave their lives and hearts to the people of India.
I've seen the amazing work that God is doing through the people of India Bible Camp Ministry. My mind works overtime. How can I transport my impressions into writing that will honor the God I serve, and serve the Indian people that I, too, have come to love?
That's what being a writer is all about—seeing what is there. What used to be there. What could be there. Just like faith. As a writer, a story takes on wings when I touch my setting, smell the fragrances, taste the spices of life in that world.
There's a jade cast to the evening sky as we leave the beach just after twilight. We make our way to St. Thomas on the Mount. This Basilica is where the Lord's disciple, Thomas is traditionally believed to be buried.
In silence we enter a room where a large copy of Caravaggio's The Incredulity of St. Thomas hangs on the wall. My weary soul is drawn to the image of the Lord Jesus opening his garment to show his wounds to a distraught, oh-so-willing-to-be-convinced Thomas. And there, just like me, is Thomas reverently, fearfully placing his finger into the wounds.
If it weren't for Thomas I would despair that my God might lose patience with me. But Thomas needed to physically touch the Lord in order to fully understand. This painting captures the truth of the biblical account, because on Christ’s face is perfect patience.
In my writing it's necessary for me to search for the proof, dig out the details. But my need to be convinced that everything-is-going-to-be-all-right follows me into my faith. I wish it didn't. I wish my daily faith would stand like a stalwart rampart no matter what the circumstances. I wish I didn't sway like the coconut palm trees of India with each overly stiff breeze.
But then...that coconut palm close to the sea withstands the gales because it has stood through countless raging storms. Maybe I need constant reassurance from my God that I'm on the right track in the various aspects of my life. I may receive those assurances from Him, and maybe I won't. Maybe I do sway, emotionally, with the howling wind at times. But I'm still planted firmly in the one thing I know for sure, Jesus saved me from my sins. I belong to Him. One day I'm going home...to Him.
Just like He was with Thomas, my Lord is so infinitely patient with me.
And like St. Thomas---the apostle God sent to India---I too say in awe, “My Lord and my God.”