We spend a long time unwinding on the beach of Chennai. In a few hours we'll head to the airport. I'm tired and yet I can't help my writer's imagination taking flight on this my last night in India. This is a place where several of my favorite novels are set. I can almost see hundred years earlier—the British or the Portuguese debarking from wooden sailing ships to wind their way through the breakers onto the shore.
But 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. But as a writer, I find a story takes on wings when I’m able to go to the physical setting. Certainly we can learn a great deal from research. But in addition to research I prefer to touch my setting, smell the fragrances, the odours, taste the spice 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 the outer room where a large copy of The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio hangs on the wall. I'm struck by the how the artist portrays the Lord opening his garment to show a distraught, oh-so-willing-to-be-convinced Thomas his wounds. And there, just like me, is Thomas reverently, fearfully placing his finger into the wounds. Thank God for Thomas. He needed to physically touch in order to fully understand. And on Christ’s face is perfect patience and His understanding of what his disciple needs.
I find that my need to be convinced follows me into my faith. I wish it didn't. In writing, it's necessary for me to search for the proof, dig out the details. But in my daily walk with God I wish I had a faith that would stand like a stalwart rampart, and not sway like the coconut palm trees of India with the breeze. But then . . . that coconut palm close to the beach can withstand the gales coming in from the sea. Maybe I do sway in the breeze. Maybe I need constant reassurance from my God that I'm on the right track, whether it be about my writing career or anything that matters to me.
Just like He was with Thomas, my Lord is so infinitely patient with me. So understanding. And like St. Thomas, I too say in awe, “My Lord and my God.”
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