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).
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