O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Trudy Morgan-Cole: The Squirmin’ Herman of Doubt

trudymorgancole.jpgI’m not sure where Trudy Morgan-Cole and I first got in touch — probably through Twitter — but it didn’t take long for me to realize she was funny and honest and a kindred spirit. Trudy is a novelist who writes historical fiction, mainly about biblical women. Her books include Esther: A Story of Courage, Lydia: A Story of Philippi, and By the Rivers of Brooklyn.


She lives in Newfoundland, used to teach high school, and has a master’s degree in counseling psychology. She grew up in the doubt-unfriendly Seventh-Day Adventist tradition, but despite her questions, still attends the same church her parents took her to when she was a child. I can totally appreciate that.

I think you’ll enjoy her heartfelt, honest, and funny contribution to the “Voices of Doubt” series.


I was seven, raised on miraculous Bible stories and missionary stories, and I craved proof of
God’s existence. I prayed earnestly before bed that if God was real, He would turn my red
Squirmin’ Herman toy yellow overnight. (Space does not permit me to explain Squirmin’ Herman
… you’ll have to Google it. Essentially it was a strip of plush fur with eyes. I had no reason for
preferring a yellow Herman; it was a pure test of Divine Omnipotence).


I remember the knot in my stomach as I awoke, the mingled fear and eagerness with which I
peered over the foot of the bed to see Squirmin’ Herman where I had laid him, flat out ready
for God like Gideon’s fleece. I teetered on the edge of faith and doubt, the possibility of the
numinous flooding my pink bedroom, till I saw the edge of Squirmin’ Herman. Still red.

I convinced myself that this was a frivolous prayer, that unlike Gideon’s fleece, Squirmin’
Herman did not merit divine attention. God was off the hook, but the seed of doubt was planted.

For the next thirty years, faith and doubt hovered, one on either shoulder. I believed God
answered prayer, but wondered why prayers for healing or protection sometimes went
unanswered. I believed Jesus was coming soon, but wondered why the Cold War was a clear
sign of His impending arrival when the Black Death or the Holocaust hadn’t been enough to
entice Him down here. I became an expert at quoting proof-texts, but wondered what use those
were in talking to people who weren’t convinced of the Bible’s authority.


Faith and doubt are uneasy companions for any young believer, but I found them particularly
difficult as a Seventh-day Adventist. Most conservative Christians believe that they have the
truth, but few express that idea with the same unshakeable conviction we Adventists do. Among
older Adventists, “The Truth” is sometimes used as shorthand for “the Seventh-day Adventist
church” (as in: “I came into The Truth during an evangelistic crusade back in ’78,” or “I’ve been
in The Truth for forty years, praise the Lord.”)

Adventism is an odd mix of fundamentalist fervor and intellectual analysis. We place a huge
value on higher education; we entice converts into “The Truth” with not with hellfire sermons
(we don’t believe in hell), but with detailed exposition of the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8
(complete with charts). Adventists are expected to be well-read, Biblically literate, and able to
argue fellow Christians into submission or exhaustion on subjects such as Sabbath-keeping or
the state of the dead.


But along with this cerebral faith comes an assumption, one shared by many Christians, that
there are barriers intellectual curiosity should not cross. Ask questions, search the Scriptures
for answers – but don’t ask too many questions about the Scriptures themselves. Don’t search
too widely for answers, lest you stumble over ideas that will cause you to doubt. Doubt is
not, perhaps, the unpardonable sin, but it’s one of the last things you’d want to admit to in an
Adventist Bible study. It’s almost as bad as smoking.

During my years attending a church college and teaching in church schools, I sought certainties
to buoy my faith and avoided questions that might capsize it. Then I took a break from teaching
to devote my attention to child-raising. Some days One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
didn’t provide quite enough intellectual stimulation, but fortunately the internet had been invented just in time for me to waste hours on it.


Faceless strangers in online discussions challenged me with questions I wouldn’t have been
willing to raise at church. An atheist mocked me – justifiably – when I confessed I was “afraid” to
read a particular book because it might shake my faith. “What kind of faith can be destroyed by
exposure to new ideas?” he asked.

I began asking the questions that troubled me most; I devoured the books I’d been scared to
read. I didn’t stop believing in God, but I began to question how well I knew Him.

One day, on one of those discussion boards, someone raised a concept that blew my mind.
It had a fancy theological term and a quote from a famous theologian to back it up, and
unfortunately I can’t remember what either of those were. All I remember was the gist of this
radical idea: It’s OK not to know all the answers to everything.


I realize most people already get this, but for me it was huge. That little ship of faith that was in
constant danger of being swamped by doubt – I’d sailed as if I were responsible to patch every
hole, mend every rip in the sails. I’d thought I had to construct a watertight faith using only the
materials available to me. Now I considered the possibility that I was, in fact, being carried all
along, that grace could cover not just my sin but also my doubt.

That guy in the Bible who, when Jesus challenged his faith, replied, “I believe, help Thou my
unbelief!” is my patron saint. I believe, and I don’t. I have faith, and I doubt. Squirmin’ Herman
remains red despite an omnipotent God. I’m learning to live with that.



Thank you, Trudy. Keep up with Trudy Morgan-Cole by following her on Twitter or at her blog, hypergraffiti. You can find out a lot more about her novels here.

Previous posts in the “Voices of Doubt” series…

David Sessions: The Hard Work of Faith
Dean Nelson: Test Everything
Carlene Bauer: Prodigal Daughter
Larry Shallenberger: The Knight and the Fortune Cookie
David Dark on Sacred Questioning
Cara Davis: A Textbook Case
Matthew Paul Turner: Letting Them See My Doubt
Sally Lloyd-Jones: Where Did You Put Your Faith?
Chad Gibbs: When It Doesn’t Seem Fair
Leeana Tankersley: The Swirling Waters
Robert Cargill: The Skeptic in the Sanctuary
Dana Ellis: Haunted by Questions
Rachel Held Evans on Works-Based Salvation
Winn Collier: Doubt Better
Tyler Clark on Losing Fear, Losing Faith
Rob Stennett on the Genesis of Doubt
Adam Ellis on Hoping That It’s True
Nicole Wick on Breaking Up with God
Anna Broadway on Doubt and Marriage

Comments read comments(8)
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Janet Oberholtzer

posted December 3, 2010 at 10:46 am

Another great “Voices of Doubt” post, Jason.
Trudy, nice to ‘meet’ you. I look forward to exploring your blog.
I had a similar experience to yours one day, when I realized I didn’t need to know all the answers – what a relief :) Now I live in this tension also … “faith and doubt hovered, one on either shoulder.”

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Charlie Chang

posted December 3, 2010 at 12:09 pm

The guy who said, “Lord, I believe help my unbelief”, has been my hero for two years now. And since w’ere all being honest here, probably for the past 10 years.

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posted December 3, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Thank you, Trudy, for writing this.
Thank you, Jason, for posting it.
It describes much of my journey – some of it almost word for word – and is very helpful in my processing.
Oh, & Trudy is a great writer, too.

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Mindful Searcher

posted December 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm

It’s comforting that we’re not alone in our doubts and that God understands and loves us anyway. Thanks for this post.

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posted December 5, 2010 at 7:45 am

Thanks for the comments, everyone — I do think one of the best things about this series (and about books like Jason’s) is seeing that we’re not alone as doubters who choose to keep believing.

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Gary Mac

posted December 12, 2010 at 9:49 am

In Christ, Gods Spirit in you, we have access to everything Jesus had access to. If one is confused about anything dealing in faith then Christ has not entered into your understanding. To have Gods Spirit in you is to have His mind, the mind of Christ for we in Christ have the mind of Christ. Confusion comes when one oversteps the Christ and tries to figure out all this stuff from a carnal understanding and Christ becomes a stumbling block instead of the solutions to your confusion. If there is anything lacking in your faith and it does not line up with the faith Jesus displayed then you have fallen short of all that God has for you.
I do not know what bible Adventist use but in the KJV Romans 8:17 says that we who have Gods Spirit are V.17 “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” We in Christ are joint heir with Christ and have everything accessible to me that Jesus had in him no different all, same Spirit, same mind.
Seeking Christ through religious doctrines isn’t the answer, only the same Spirit, Mind, be in you who was in Christ Jesus will open all of Gods heaven to you. Jesus said in Luke 17:22 Behold the kingdom of God is within you. This was made revelation to Jesus in Matt 3:16 when the same came to that man and opened all of heaven to that man. Jesus referred to this process as born again.
If one is not as Jesus was and have all that he had in knowledge and wisdom then you have deviated from the example God sent for you to follow, to be like, to imitate. He is not the author of confusion He is the solution to your confusion. All one has to do is repent from self knowledge and receive from God His mind. Having faith in Christ is not the same thing as having the faith of Christ; you are supposed to have His faith. Christ in YOU, You being that anointed person of God that Jesus was. He is Gods example of what you are supposed to be. Anything less is of self understanding.
Oswald Chambers said something like posted below. I do not have his direct quote but remember the words and it came from his book My Utmost for His Highest and a truth to we who have Gods Spirit in us..
It is a snare to imagine God wants to make us perfect specimen of what He can do, His purpose is to make us one with Him. He doent make specimens of holiness to display in His museum, He wants us to be in His image. Christian perfection is not human perfection Christian perfection is a relationship with God in which we can declare to be one as He is. God is not after perfecting me to be a specimen in His showcase but is only getting me to the place He can use me. Let Him do in me what He likes.
Seek Him in His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Noting is hidden about Gods kingdom if you have His same Spirit in you.

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posted December 12, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Gary Mac said: “In Christ, Gods Spirit in you, we have access to everything Jesus had access to.”
Using scripture one can probably safely make this assertion.
The issue is as I understand Trudy is that this ‘Assertion’ doesn’t really play out in real life. AND, the fact that it doesn’t really play out in reality causes a lot of confusion and scripture wrangling to explain ‘Why doesn’t it”.
Always, the first line of defense by the ‘true believer’ is that there is something wrong with the person who sees the inconsistency. So first, a person with questions and doubts is labeled ‘Carnal minded’or unbelieving or un-regenerate or a host of other pejorative terms suggesting that they are ‘less than’ for having doubts.
Second, the ‘true believer’ misses the point because they accept the Bible as the inerrant and literal word of God. The ‘true believer’ believes what the Bible says over reality if necessary in order to make it all ‘line up’ with God.
I believe Trudy’s problem is that she saw that ‘Ask anything in my name’ doesn’t really work. It didn’t work on ‘squirmin’ and it seldom works in many other instances like people with cancer, diseases etc.
The true believer counters this by saying> ” It isn’t always God’s will, You didn’t pray in faith,, you’re carnal so God doesn’t hear..etc’
Problem with that is that when most of us came to Christ we were told, Christ will do this and that, and heal this and that, and give you purpose, and has a plan etc. But then, in the working out of that, few things seldom work out but really we find ourselves struggling as much as the non-believer or people of other religions and faiths.
But that again is countered by all kinds of ;Fine print disclaimers” You don’t know the whole Bible, or you are carnal, etc.. SO I guess, if the preacher were to preach all of the disclaimers at the time he was preaching all the ‘promises’ far fewer people would initially believe.
With all due respect to Gary and Oswald Chambers most of those arguments are pat little bumper sticker theologies that really sound good when blurting them out but fall apart under scrutiny and testing.
Sayings like, It is a snare to imagine God wants to make us perfect specimen of what He can do, His purpose is to make us one with Him.
That sounds good but is that really a true statement?? How do you know what God wants? You go to the Bible and ‘interpret it.
But the struggle is, so many things don’t pan out, things that seem literal, are dumbed down to be figurative when they don’t really work (See the Ask anything argument).
The fact that the earth is billions of years old and not 6,000 years, or the promise of making the Jews as the stars of the sky (Trillions xTrillion) yet the Jews comprise one of the smallest populations on the planet.
The fact that Noah probably didn’t exist and the flood is a myth is a problem of taking the Bible literally like people were taught and the fact that Christian preachers are now in the business of fine=print disclaimers after years of being told that we can ask anything, God will do this and that ad infitum.
I find Trudy and others here to be refreshing honesty in this struggle called faith.
I find Gary Mac to be the typical bumper-sticker theology, if you say it loud and long enough it will be true. Somehow methinks Gary is not spiritually and /or intellectually honest with his faith.

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posted December 13, 2010 at 10:02 am

When it comes to this subject matter and other subject matter it proves how small our mental grasp of things really is. The reason we like the limited beings that we are is because we are only human and God thinks like the God that he is in his infinite wisdom. It reminds of of a quote by Albert Camus which is “Man is the only creature that refuses to accept what he is”. For some reason we as humans can’t accept the fact that we can’t think and rationalize on the same level as God does.

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