COULD YOU GIVE ME A SIGN? PLEASE?
During January of my senior year (2002-03) at Luther Seminary, I was thrilled to study abroad for the first time, researching Anglo-Saxon monasticism at Gladstone’s Library in Wales. On my last day on that side of the Atlantic, after my time in Wales and at the end of a week making my way back to London, I took an overnight bus trip to Paris. In one very long day, I hit the tourist highlights – the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysee, and the Louvre. I fought my way through the crowds at the Louvre to catch the obligatory glimpse of the Mona Lisa. As I continued my wander through the museum, I saw a painting that stopped me dead in my tracks from the story portrayed by the artist as well as the place that story held in my life at that time.
I hadn’t seen the title and artist card yet, but I instantly recognized Jesus commanding Thomas to put his hand through the wounds in Jesus’ side and hands. This painting, The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Francesco de Rossi, showed “Doubting Thomas” in a state of doubt and disbelief at Jesus’ appearance before the disciples after His death and resurrection.
I was in a state of upheaval in my candidacy process, having my doubts about the church. My internship the previous year had gone well but ended poorly. I was struggling with how I fit into the wider church. Just a couple days before seeing this painting, I had interviewed at the University of York for a combination master’s/doctorate program in medieval studies, and they were keen on having me there. Should I keep following my call to ordained ministry, or should I pursue further academic studies? Will my office be a small church on the prairie, or will I walk out of the classroom and be greeted by the Great West Entrance of York Minster? Good grief, God, would you just make it clear? Could you give me a sign? Please?
I took a blurry digital photo of that painting in the Louvre (no flash photography allowed) and looked at it in between naps on the overnight bus back to London and the flight back to St. Paul later that day. When I went back to the Louvre in 2012 with my mom, I saw that painting again, and I was struck by how clear it was then – both the image in my mind and the message it gave. Jesus calls us to thrust our hands into His wounds and, in the midst of doubt and disbelief, to trust in the hope given to us in the Resurrection.
He is risen indeed!
Andrea Toven is a radio broadcast engineer and head of electronic component sales for Smiling Dog Systems. She and her husband Shane, an applications engineer for Linear Acoustic, live in Laramie with their four-legged children Callie, Leo, and Norman.