The Genesis of Doubt

Some of the more regulars here know that I’m going back to the beginning. I’m exploring the themes I see emerging in my life and tracing them back to their origins. Today, I’m writing a bit about doubt, and though I’ve written a bit about this before, please indulge me a bit.

In the beginning, there was faith like a five year old.

I remember the asthma attacks like choking, like a slow empty drag. My parents desperate, they brought me to church on a Tuesday night for an irregular meeting of the assembly. We congregated under a massive tent-shaped sanctuary with a roof that stretched upward like a pyramid from four low walls. We were there, the whole lot of us, to see a globe-trotting faith healer whose weapons of warfare consisted of a ten-pound bible, a gallon jug of olive oil, and a traveling ensemble of hallelujah-singers dressed in gold-trimmed choir robes.

A gangly first-grader, I watched the congregation whip themselves into a frenzy of the not-for-Sunday sort. This was the Tuesday night crowd, the desperate crowd, the folks who made camp at any Pool of Bethesda they could find.

As the congregants spilled into the blessing lines, I asked my mother whether it was time. “Not yet, honey,” she said tenderly. “Let’s wait until the service is over.” I obliged her willingly, mostly because I didn’t feel sick. I was breathing mighty fine at the moment, and asthma attacks were not frightening to me. After all, didn’t mom and dad always make it right? Didn’t they always bring healing of a different sort, what with the inhalers, and pills, and the occasional breathing treatment?  The way I saw it, they had this healing bit covered.

Patiently we endured the prayers over the crippled, lame, blind, and deaf until the last congregant slipped from the service. That’s when my mother said, “let’s go, sweetie.” There we stood, before the evangelist–a traveling one, I think. He asked what type of healing I’d come for, and I said that I wanted rid of my asthma. He smiled broadly, laughed and said that nothing was to big for Jesus.

“With enough faith all things are possible.”

He marked my forehead with an olive oil cross and prayed that my lungs would open, claimed my healing by the precious blood. “We rejoice in this boy’s healing even now; Amen,” he said.

The evangelist stooped down and looked into my eyes. Did I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, he asked? I told him, “I think so,” but that was really just feigned faith, the kind that tells grown-ups their doing the best they know how. The truth was, I didn’t feel anything. And in that moment, with the weight of adult hopes and expectations hanging on the sufficiency of child-like faith, the first seed of doubt was planted.


I know this one might be hard to swallow. But read it for what it says, not what it doesn’t. And as a father of sick child, I’ll tell you… I’ll do just about anything to make it right, including what my folks did. My folks is good folks (that grammar faux paux was artistic license, ma… don’t blow me up).

Thanks for your consistency in following along here. I appreciate you folks.

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10 Responses to The Genesis of Doubt

  1. pastordt says:

    Oh yeah, I get this. For a sick child, you will try just about anything. But that Tuesday night stuff – it scared me good when I saw it as a young adult. It was not part of my childhood story, but my newly married story, in the denomination my husband grew up in. But it happened only in other parts of the country and that’s where we were, on our way to Africa, when I witnessed what was to me very strange goings on. All of 21 and a recent college grad, I had a sociology major’s insight into this behavior – a natural release of inhibitions in a very closed and legalistic community. Maybe. I still don’t now what to think. Holy Spirit? Maybe. But seeds of doubt? Oh, yes.

    • sethhaines says:

      I thought I responded this when you wrote it… arg… I’m behind.

      You mention something that’s really powerful here–“sociology major….” I’d like to know more about the sociological causes and effects of these types of settings. Not to deny the mystic (may it never be), but… you know what I’m saying here.

  2. David H. says:

    I wonder if the crippled man Jesus healed by the pool of Bethesda had had doubts during his 38 years of maimed living. I bet he did. But people don’t talk about that. Sometimes I think all we can do is wait faithfully by the pool and hope healing comes to us instead of us to it.

    Waiting with you, bud.

  3. Tanya Marlow says:

    Oo – I do like this writing. It’s really good.

    I am thinking about expectations and what we communicate to children. I wonder if I go the other way. Will I ever encourage my boy to pray for his aches and sicknesses or have I just forgotten that God does heal, sometimes, sometimes even if he doesn’t heal Mummy’s poorly legs?

    • sethhaines says:

      Thank you, Tanya, these are hard questions and as a parent, I’m convinced that we do the best we can, try hardest to do what we know. Then hopefully, it all works together for good in the end.

  4. this reminds me of a story. maybe i’ll tell it some day. but yes – seeds of doubt and parent desperation and foolish hopes.. such a devastating combination.

  5. Pingback: Saint Thomas and the Tree of Doubt | A Deeper Story

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