BY JAKE BAKER
Church had never been welcoming for him, but he kept coming back. The solitude helped him pray, and in prayer, he could be completely honest with God. With people, he could never be fully honest.
At least, he wasn’t accepted when he was honest. That’s why she’d broken up with him. He had told her about his hidden past. Isn’t this what you told me to do, God? To be a man of honesty? To bring the past to light? Well I did!
In a dark corner of the church, he knelt down, alone. God, every time I listen to you, I suffer. Why do you let them hurt me? Don’t you love me?
He had asked these questions before; always for different reasons, but always the same questions. Now he chose to be alone—away from the accusing eyes that always saw a flaw in him.
He moved toward the altar. His whole life he had felt misunderstood, and most Christians made it worse. They wouldn’t accept him. He never wanted to be attracted to other men. He never asked to be different. He just was. I shouldn’t have told her. She wouldn’t have found out.
He’d thought she would accept him; he’d thought he knew her. Aren’t Christians all about forgiveness and love? She was supposed to forgive me. She was supposed to help me live a new life. Didn’t she love me? The breakup reinforced his belief: Nobody really cared for him.
He stood before the altar, clenching his hands. What can you do to make up for how I’ve suffered? Will you answer? He looked around and felt his gaze drawn upwards. He noticed something he hadn’t seen before: Christ weeping on the cross. His anger grew as he saw the helplessness of the figure. Sometimes God seemed as weak as the wooden Christ suspended in midair. Wasn’t God supposed to be the opposite? Why must I suffer?
Don’t you love me?
A familiar verse interrupted his thoughts: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Startled, he looked more carefully at Christ. The tears still bothered him. How could God the Father be vulnerable to sorrow? Why are you weeping? You’re supposed to end my pain!
But He hadn’t.
Jesus was supposed to represent the Father. He was supposed to be man’s way to God. But all he saw was a weak, dying man. Why the suffering and shame, when the result was death? You didn’t have to die. What was the point?
He remembered bits of Sunday School lessons—something about Jesus suffering to save all mankind. He tried to picture that. He imagined Jesus, bruised and bloodied, on the cross; His sweat and blood mixing as they trickled down His starved body. Jesus. His weakness, his shame, and his suffering were made into public entertainment. Jesus, too, had known rejection. He, too, had been shunned. The masses jeered as a man ran up and spat on Jesus. Why are you letting this happen? Aren’t you the Son of God? Don’t you have the power to stop this?
In answer, the cross seemingly grew closer and voices grew louder. The air became dusty and the smell made it hard to breathe. He looked around and wiped spit off his lip. Suddenly, he realized that he was in the crowd. He was the man that had spat on Jesus. And he was shouting: “Kill that man!” No. “He’s responsible! He never protected me!” No. “Make him suffer!” No. No! NO!
The crowd faded away. He stood before the cross, alone. Jesus was weeping. Thomas, my child, I did this for you.
A tear fell on his clasped hands. Thomas realized he, too, was weeping.