There is a wonderful story in the Gospel of John about the disciples huddled together shortly after they had seen their Lord and friend tortured and murdered while they stood by doing nothing. The doors and windows are locked as they are terrified the same thing might happen to them. Suddenly, somehow, there he is with them.

If I had been in their shoes I would have been thinking, “I am in big trouble now. What is he going to do to me after I totally abandoned him when he needed me the most?” And what Jesus did was to look them in the eye and quietly say, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

As always happens, the one meeting we miss is when the good stuff happens. Thomas was not there that day, but the others told him all about it. He said, “Oh no, I will not believe until I see him for myself.” And guess what? Jesus appeared again and said to Thomas, “Peace be with you. Here, feel my wounds for yourself.”

Thomas had seen enough and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Ever since then, it is a bad thing to be called a “Doubting Thomas.” But is that fair? He did not get mad and leave, but simply could not accept the faith of others as his own.

Are we so different? You and I have doubts, don’t we? Often serious doubts as fundamental as, “is there really a God at all?” Our problem is that other people of faith don’t seem to have those same doubts, so we tend to keep ours to ourselves.

I think there is a major understanding on the part of many Christians who think that we are supposed to believe a list of things like the creed or the catechism. No, we are called to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and that is quite a different thing.

Those other things are the Church’s attempt to help us understand God and his ways the best we limited human beings are able. I can believe in Jesus while at the same time having doubts about certain elements of the Creed, for example. Those documents are statements of the faith of the Church, not of every individual in the Church.

When people hear God’s call in their lives and decide to say “yes,” whatever that means to them at that moment, it does not mean that their doubts are gone. Look at that first little group. They had followed Jesus every day, and loved him, and devoted themselves to him — until things got rough and their doubts took over.

When Jesus returned, he did not punish or condemn them for their lack of faith. Instead, he loved them and built his Church on them! My point is that having doubts is not being unfaithful, but rather a clear indication that we are human.

As a matter of fact, perhaps the best way to describe our faith is in terms of what we doubt. Our doubts are out there where our growing edges are — the places where our life struggles are the most alive and intense. Our tendency is to say, “OK God, I’ve gone this far with you, but I am getting beyond my comfort zone. When will you stop pulling me out where things get unclear?”

We know the answer: ”never.” As soon as we ask how much faith is enough, we are off the path. We are attempting to quantify it, measure it, analyze it, and evaluate it, and if that is our approach, we will never live it. Faith without doubt is a dead faith.

The Rt. Rev. David C. Bane Jr. is the retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia and a member of Christ Episcopal Church in Elizabeth City.