Crossing the ‘Gap’ of doubt
In a different life I commuted every day from Kent to London. Feeling a bit like the Reggie Perrin of old, I travelled daily from Tonbridge to Canon Street, then underground to Bank station in the City. Each morning, as the doors ‘shhhhhhhd’ open, I alighted from the carriage to the sound of the monotonous, regular intonation:
‘Bank station: mind the gap – please mind the gap’
Gaps can be worrying things. Real gaps – that space between the step of a train and the edge of a platform - can be a chasm for lost shoes, dropped keys, fumbled tickets or worse.
And yet often the ‘gaps’ in our lives can be even more worrying if we let them. The gaps of loneliness, isolation, exclusion, bereavement, loss, grief, self-pity, even doubt: all these are often more frightening and more real to some than the extra six inches one has to ‘mind’ at Bank Underground.
When the risen Lord appears to the disciples in the upper room, Thomas wasn’t present. I’m sure a ‘gap’ must have formed in his mind there and then – a gap of being excluded, lonely, isolated – of being left out.
The bible story tells he wanted ‘proof’ in order to cross that gap - to believe that Jesus had actually risen and was alive once more. And the only way he could cross that ‘gap’ of doubt and isolation was with ‘proof’ – a desire, perhaps, we and much of the world echoes today.
For how do we cross that gap between what we know is logical, evident and provable - and what seems mysterious, evident, yet is unprovable? How do we make that leap of faith in a creator God, who is found in Jesus and who lives through the Spirit?
It may be easy for some – but we know it’s not for everyone.
In his autobiographical book (A Severe Mercy ,1977), Sheldon Vanauken talks of the love of his wife Davy and how he came to grips with losing her to cancer, with the help of his increasing faith and his correspondence with
C. S. Lewis (who soon was to face the loss of his own terminally ill wife). Vanauken found that his belief in something greater than creation itself, which provided hope and healing, helped with the fear and the pain, and was the bridge which helped him cross that gap.
In the book, he wrote a short, beautiful poem which, for me, illustrates our post Easter Christian faith in God quite succinctly. Belief, as you shall read, does require a ‘leap’ of faith. It might not be quite so small an easy step as it is to cross the six inch gap at Bank underground – but it is a leap that can help take away fear and loss. It just takes a little courage to take that first step. See what you think.
Did Jesus live? And did he really say
The burning words that banish mortal fear?
And are they true? Just this is central, here
The Church must stand or fall. It's Christ we weigh.
All else is off the point: the Flood, the Day
Of Eden, or the Virgin Birth--Have done!
The Question is, did God send us the Son
Incarnate crying Love! Love is the Way!
Between the probable and proved there yawns
A gap. Afraid to jump, we stand absurd,
Then see behind us sink the ground, and worse,
Our very standpoint crumbling. Desperate dawns
Our only hope: to leap into the Word
That opens up the shuttered universe.
Yours in Christ
Revd Chris Wingfield