We walk along, wondering when blood will flow

Doug Mendenhall


We walk along, wondering when blood will flow

Early in “The Grapes of Wrath,” Tom Joad is under the hood of a jalopy, coaxing a few more miles out of a tired engine. Tom cuts his hand, but reckons he’s never worked on a car yet without drawing blood, so he’s just kind of glad to get it over with. (That scene from the novel isn’t in the film, but can’t you just hear Henry Fonda saying it?)

It’s the sort of the attitude I have around the house: Any project involving tools and sweat is also going to involve a little blood.

So I expected the worst last weekend, when we finally tore down the old storage shed. It had been taken over by big spiders, small mammals and several decades of rot, then whammed last winter by a tree limb falling through the roof.

For four hours we ripped a 16-by-8 structure into splinters and rusty nails, while I waited like Tom Joad for my blood to flow. I came close eight or nine times, including:

A nail pierced the sole of my tennis shoe and slipped between two toes without touching either one.

I stood in spilled Quikrete mix while busting loose a plywood panel with a high karate kick. My foot slipped on the dust and I did a Jackie Chan dance to keep from falling on my head.

Another nail grabbed the front of my jeans and ripped a 4-inch hole in them, but without a scratch on my thigh inside.

Despite these and other near misses, at the end of the day the shed was gone. And I was dirty and tired, but not bloodied.

Life is like that. You know from past experience that there may be pain and blood, but you still have a job to do. So sometimes you get hurt, and sometimes you brace for pain that doesn’t materialize. And you keep going forward, step by step, day by day.

Which brings us to the Apostle Thomas.

One time Jesus proposed going up to Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem, to resurrect his friend, Lazarus. Thomas didn’t think this was a good idea, because the last time Jesus had been in the neighborhood he’d almost been stoned. Still, Thomas told the rest of the apostles, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (If that scene was in a film, couldn’t you just hear Henry Fonda saying it?)

Very few of us are called to do what Jesus did. He knew that his blood was going to spill, that he was going to be tortured and executed. He knew exactly when it was going to happen and exactly what it was going to feel like.

And knowing, Jesus walked right into it.

Instead, most Christians are called to do what Thomas did. He didn’t know what would happen in his life if he walked with Jesus. He didn’t know if he’d survive the walk, but he believed enough in Jesus to stay beside him.

Jesus was headed for death, Thomas thought, but he was still worth following.

Eventually Thomas walked into a house in Jerusalem and saw the proof that he’d been right on both accounts.

Eventually, tradition says, Thomas walked all the way to India telling people about Jesus.

Eventually, tradition says, Thomas was stabbed to death for his faith.

He’d always known it was a possibility, but he never stopped walking.

Doug Mendenhall serves up Soul Food each week. E-mail him

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