I’m 17, huddled around a bonfire with friends. One argues for evolution; I argue for creation. Another argues creation; I argue evolution. The whole world appears binary. I don’t identify as a Christian. My faith is in myself and little else.
I enjoy debate—always have. Working out ideas, concepts, language. It floors me to take big ideas, turn them inside out to examine them. My coming of age was accompanied by the realization that I’m a Thomas—skilled at doubting, naturally skeptical.
I’m a doubter-believer. This is not a badge of honor. Nor is it a confession. It’s a statement of what is.
As an adult I’ve learned to grow (mostly) comfortable with this, accepting my doubt can lead to beautiful faith when my posture is humble, inquisitive, and soft toward God. I felt no space for this growing up in church.
Now I stand witness to many loved ones (and acquaintances) facing the existential crisis of “deconstruction” and I want to say I’m here for it. I’ve been deconstructing and reconstructing in an untidy loop since I was 16, often alone and, at times, in secret. I understand how tender it all is, and I empathize with the desire to check out from faith communities that are unwilling to engage in the give-and-take of spiritual life.
But I also want to say to those in the middle of some sort of faith crisis or deconstruction—consider keeping some safe, empathetic, Jesus-loving people in your life while you’re deconstructing.
It grieves me that many feel compelled to leave church in order to make sense of their faith. (Should we blame them?) I’m convinced Jesus would want us to bring all our Big Questions to the table. (Side note: It’s on me—us—to keep our tables big enough to welcome them.)
However you read scripture—keep reading. Keep connected to believers. Keep looking for Jesus. Keep showing up at the table.
You may have baggage around your own faith or church experience (who doesn’t?), but God’s here for it—not intimated by any question, doubt, or accusation you have.
Deconstruct, sure. But also ask God to reconstruct. Dismantling harmful belief systems isn’t enough; replace them with life-giving beliefs and practices that will help you sustain fresh faith, flourish in your connection with God, and joyfully love and serve your neighbors.
Take your time. Seriously. But also: Don’t stay in the rubble. Don’t believe the lie of scarcity that says all must be dismantled before anything good can be put back together. (Life is more fluid than that—sometimes it really is both/and instead of either/or.) And then purpose to reconstruct in a way that’s more faithful to the Way of Jesus.
Take up space at the table. Please. You are welcome. Table space doesn’t work in a math equation, but it does multiply when we keep an open heart. I’m sure of it.
There’s so much room at God’s table. Yes, even for you and for me.
Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash.
A post script from Adriel on the word “deconstruction”:
To be honest with you, I’m not a huge fan of the word “deconstruction” to describe a faith journey, and yet it’s what we’ve got so it would be unhelpful for me to not use it in this context. When I first heard the term used several years ago I thought, “Oh, this is helpful to describe what we haven’t had a word for before.” But it seems it’s been co-opted in incredibly unhelpful ways now.
There’s a new trend of calling every examination of faith and doubt surrounding theology “deconstruction,” and another new trend of railing against anything that remotely resembles (or suggests) deconstruction and calling it heretical. This is exactly the problem with these buzzy words. They end up further alienating people into “us and them” camps and I’m so over it. The reality is, if people who are in faith crisis are deconstructing their belief systems, the last thing they need is to be told they can’t or shouldn’t, or to experience shame surrounding the (very real) struggle. This is not productive and doesn’t contribute to any kind of healthy rebuilding of faith.
To be clear, I’m so dismayed by the increasing anti-deconstruction rhetoric I’m seeing in some Christian circles. I’m also dismayed by the glorification of deconstruction that I’m seeing in others. Neither is helpful. For most people, it’s actually incredibly painful to deconstruct and it’s irresponsible (not to mention unkind) to minimize it on one hand or use it as an excuse on the other.
So yet again we see another word stabbed through the middle with a polarizing divide that was never necessary in the first place. 💔 Words matter. But definitions matter too. Most importantly, the people using them to name their process matter even more. So how about we make it a practice of assuming the best in our fellow believers?