My father-in-law grew up on a farm in Nebraska. As most who know him can attest, he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty, or his whole body for that matter. When I first married his daughter, I had to get used to his do-it-yourself style. Often he's made outrageous-sounding claims that I've strongly doubted. There are so many examples to choose from, but the one that stands out happened not long after my wife and I were married.
There was a branch that was ominously hanging over our little house. My powers of estimation are sketchy, but in my memory, the branch had to be 65 feet off the ground. I often told my wife that I needed to do something about it. However, paying to have it trimmed was not within our meager budget, and getting up in the tree to cut it myself was outside my physical abilities and better judgment. I imagined the branch breaking off during a storm and crashing down on us while we slept. When it would rain, I would lay in bed praying that the branch would not fall.
I was explaining all of this to my father-in-law, John, one afternoon. He said confidently, "we can cut it." I protested. I doubted. I thought that was ridiculous. It was too high, too dangerous, and too difficult. I hadn't seen him in action, but I was certain he was overstating his abilities. Not to mention, my mother-in-law often recounted the time he had cut a tree down, and it fell in the wrong direction, wrecking some valued property. The truth was, I didn't trust him. I doubted.
One day in the autumn John showed up with his orange chain saw and a spool of rope. Despite my protesting, I had finally given in and the day was upon us. I was nervous, but I tried not to let it show. At the time, he was about 60 years old, but you wouldn't know it from the way he scaled the tree. Yeah, you read that right. It was him that climbed; I'm embarrassed to say. I stood on the ground and held the rope, as he spent all afternoon 65 feet above the ground. Little by little, he sliced the branch back as if it were a warm loaf of bread. No one died, and the needle on my trust-o-meter ticked a notch in the right direction. His abilities overturned my doubts.
I learned in that situation, as I have on many other occasions that I can trust my father-in-law. This farm boy from Nebraska can do just about anything. When my wife asked for a tub in our tiny one-bathroom house, John said, "Let's remodel, and turn it into two bathrooms." I doubted that we could do it, but he was right. It upped the resale value of the house by thousands. When he bought a canoe and wanted to take its maiden voyage in the dead of night on the muddy snake infested Sabine River, I doubted, but it turned out to be an incredible experience. When he proposed a trip to India to visit a leprosy colony, I doubted, but it was a life changing trip. When he suggested taking the aluminum canoe through the Galveston surf into the open ocean, I doubted, but now it's one of my more fantastic memories. I consider him one of the best friends and mentors I've ever had. Our friendship has followed this familiar five step pattern:
Our friendship has been a long process in which he proves himself trustworthy. He's shown over and over that I have no reason to doubt, even when it seems impossible. He is reasonable about his skill set and doesn't brag. He can accomplish what he sets out to do, and he is aware of what is beyond his abilities.
Although the stakes were much higher for the apostles, they went through a similar process with Jesus. They learned over time that their doubts concerning Christ were unfounded. They took over three years to investigate the claims of Jesus and overcame any mistrust they experienced. There seems to be no greater example of a man going through this process than doubting Thomas. Because of my doubt-defying experiences with my mentor I feel a kindred connection with Tom.
There is precious little information presented on any given disciple of the Lord within the text of Scripture. Thomas is no exception. He's often remembered for his bold doubt of Christ's resurrection, however, his last words found in the Bible demonstrate his victory over that doubt. The scant details provided are sufficient to sketch a loose biography of the man who learned from, followed, and believed in Jesus. The Apostle Thomas experienced a radical transformation from a fearful and skeptical middle-of-the pack disciple to a courageous gospel preaching Apostle. That morph was largely because he was bold enough to demand proof. This biographical study will trace the lines of that transformation.