Friday, November 17, 2017

Owning my spiritual shifts, Part 1

You may remember my post from late August where I opened the door on some of the spiritual upheaval I've had this year.  It's been ongoing since April, actually, and it's been the most terrifying, thrilling, and enlivening experience I've had in a long time.

I'm in a more peaceful place than I was in August, a more excited and eager place, too.  But the calm came as a surprise.  Just this past weekend, I was introduced to The Deconstructionists podcast, and after listening to just one episode, I realized "deconstruction" was the word for what I've been going through.  This in itself, the move from "spiritual crisis" to "deconstruction" has been huge for me.  It's like "going into labor" vs "delivery."  The nuance in these words make such a big difference, and the adoption of "deconstruction" normalized my situation for me.

The Liturgists, the first safe space I found for my doubting and growth, they use this term a lot.  A deconstruction of faith is a tearing down of what you once believed.  Deconstruction can go so far as a complete excavation of every shred of faith and religion, which is almost what happened with me, but then it also often involves the relayering of new foundations and beliefs once the old is peeled away.  

The Liturgists community and The Deconstructionists community both enter into this process and its uncertainty with more questions, very few answers, and a ton of grace and acceptance.  Once I admitted that, yes, that word fits me, too, it felt like I finally belonged.  I had found my tribe, the people who knew what I was going through, the people who didn't judge me or force me to decide what I believe or defend myself.  Instead of sympathy, there was empathy.  Instead of isolation, there was "I totally get that, here's how I dealt with this, remember to have patience."  It was amazing, and it's made all the difference in my acceptance of where I am and in my emotional well being.  It's also made a huge impact in dispelling the last shreds of fear I had.  I'd been so worried, back in the summer, that I wouldn't find the truth.  Accepting my deconstruction showed me that I'll never know the whole truth.  I'll never have all the answers.  And, praise all that is good and holy, I'm so glad I'm now in a place where I find that freeing!


Now that I have less mistrust and aversion in my relationship with God, the most unpleasant part of this journey has become interacting with some of the Christians around me who don't accept where I am or who don't understand.  In fact, for months I've been afraid of being "found out" by my parents, or worse, my mother-in-law.  Two days ago, though, I got to speak with my dad and brought up The Big Topic.  After explaining what I'd been going through and where I am now, my dad caught me off guard by saying he was proud of me and that, of course, it makes sense, and "now you're learning to figure out what you believe, Lindsay, not just what we told you to believe.  And we probably only believed what we told you to believe because someone told us to believe it."  Oh, it was such a relief.  I felt so loved and known, and gosh I'm moved as I remember the moment now.  My mother-in-law, too, while I haven't gotten to share with her the breadth and depth of really any of this, reminded me recently of how much she loves me and also how she doesn't expect me to conform to the traditional way of thinking.  I hope we'll get to chat soon, and I'm pretty sure it will be hard for her to hear, but I know she'll still be with me and she'll still support me.

Some other folks, though, haven't taken to my changes so nicely.  If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me lamenting the fact that someone told me I definitely was NOT a Christian last week.  Yes, he used all caps.  He was also an internet stranger in a conservative worldview Facebook group who I'll most likely never meet, but it still hurt.  It was very easy to feel offended and self-righteous and, are you kidding, do you even know who I am?  Thankfully we had miles and screens between us, and I also completely understand where he's coming from.  Had our roles been reversed and were it 2015, I would have responded the same way he did.  It's a very scary thing to see someone in your Christian circles stepping away from a belief you place so much value on.  I totally get that.

This interaction forced me to recognize that I'm now on what most American Christians would call the fringes of Christianity, the edge, or maybe even beyond the edge.  It's an odd place to be, especially considering how much of the Christian faith I do ascribe to.  I knew all the songs at Vacation Bible School and memorized the Roman Road (one of Christianity's main tools for evangelism, taken from Paul's writings in the book of Romans), and I can tell you that I most certainly am a Christian, if anyone was wondering, but I'm not the same Christian I was before.  I either disagree or don't agree with quite a few things most American Christians take as gospel.  This has brought tension to many conversations with Caleb, who doesn't know how to best respond to having his wife go through deconstruction yet.  This has become the most uncomfortable part of my journey.  To not have my best friend know and understand where I am.  We haven't talked about it, not really, and in my own home, at least, I am still isolated.


If you know someone going through deconstruction, please let them wade through the marshes.  Let them doubt and question and challenge.  Let them be angry and distraught and sorrowful.  Just don't let them go through it alone.  Don't try to fix them or their problems.  Don't try to answer their questions for them unless they explicitly ask.  Hug them.  Let them know you're available if they'd like to talk things out or if they need a soundboard.  This is a struggle, and they have to struggle through it.  This is a time of fluidity and testing and there is no magic solution you can offer, but you can offer acceptance, a safe place free of condemnation and pressure, and unconditional love.  If you're afraid that your friend is going the wrong direction, whether you say so or not, remember the trust you have in your God and the Spirit inside your friend.  If you pray, pray for them.  Chances are you believe that, in the end, it's God's sovereignty and truth that will win all things.  Take heart in that, find support for yourself if you need it, and release yourself from the expectation to make things right.  That's not your role, it's Gods.

A few things to ponde that will hopefully encourage you about your friend's journey and show you more of how they're heading in a healthy direction:

"If a person thinks that God is impressed by how certain you are and remaining certain, well you're going to have a phobia of [...] anything that might lessen your certainty, that might throw you into doubt.  So you insulate your faith."  - Greg Boyd via The Deconstructoinists podcast (41:51)

"People think that your faith is as strong as you are doubt-free, and so [they] make a virtue out of not doubting.  That sets so many wrong things in motion.  If you have that model, then you're going to try really never to doubt the rightness of your beliefs, which makes an idol out of your beliefs.  You [then] get life from your rightness, and that's your salvation.  And if you begin doubt too much, then you lose your salvation."  - Greg Boyd via The Deconstructoinists podcast (32:10)

If you're going through deconstruction yourself, know that you are not alone.  There are thousands of people like you who are right now dealing with some of the biggest questions they've ever faced.  You're not the first one to have these doubts.  It's okay to have these doubts.  In fact, faith needs doubt.  Since the Enlightenment, logic and reason have been so highly valued by society and even the church that we've become almost obsessed with having all the answers, but faith was never meant to have all the answers.

"Faith is clearly learning to live without knowing and [to live] trusting that God knows.  We've turned it around 180 degrees to mean people walking around who are certain about everything." - Richard Rohr via The Deconstructionist podast (12:36) 
^ (This whole episode s 100% gold.)
Chances are you'll come through this with a different understanding than you had before.  Chances are what gets left behind needed to get left behind.  As we grow, our relationships change, and it makes perfect sense that our relationship with God would change, too.  This is normal and healthy, and it's quite common for Christians from conservative circles, especially when they reach their 30's.  Where you are is okay.  You're not a bad Christian.  Doubt isn't sinful, and you don't have to be afraid of it.  As Science Mike says, doubt has the power we give it, but that's the only power it has.

"If there's a God worth believing in, it's a God big enough to handle this sort of thing.  To handle uncertainty." - Mike McHargue (aka Science Mike) via The Liturgists podcast (23:30)


I know I don't often talk about my faith on my blog, but these big changes have been worth writing about.  I'm going to be publishing another post about some of my beliefs that have shifted this year, so keep an eye on this space next Friday to see how much of a heretic I've become (tongue in cheek, friends, tongue in cheek).

1 comment:

  1. Lindsay! WOW! I completely understand where you are! I feel VERY similar right now ... but, my view is a little different (as it should be ... we all don't travel the same road). I have watched myself go in and out of what I believe is a closeness that I literally feel to God. Lately, that feeling feels cut of ... like a far away thought that I can catch only a glimpse of if I concentrate all my calmness. I found a church that I just started ... yes, I am a Christian too ... but, it seems that if God wants me to know something ... lately, He uses someone else to tell me. I feel SUPER guilty for not being in that closeness space ... my view is that I pushed God away with .... stuff ... anything that isn't of Him. My view is that if I want to get to that space where my relationship is what I know it can be one day, I have to somehow break down??? That's where I stop ... I don't know and I feel confused. It's the first part of my pathway as well ... learning a new way to see myself and to see God ... and, it's a SUPER slow process. I want answers today, and God wants to give them to me when I can handle them. So, I'm there in my own way ... right on the outskirts, however, still in the game. Just wanted to tell you that I am proud of you too! You are so talented at expressing your feelings and your surroundings in a way that I think I can feel what you write about! This journey that you share will be someone else's treasure as you come into the newness you will have with God. It's nice to see you vulnerable and honest about where you are. Merry Christmas, dear friend!!


Thank you for sharing your thoughts! If there is something you want me to respond to specifically, feel free to send me an email; I'd love to chat.