When asked to tell my deconstruction story, I have to admit that I struggled a bit. To tell this story would mean to revisit my relationship with disappointment and its final breaking point in my life; my tower moment. Everyone reaches this point at some time, the moment when things come crashing down before it is built back up. In 2019, I guess I could say that was my tower moment. It was during this time that I stepped out on faith from a stressful career to pursue my passion of baking and ministry. All doors were wide open until one weekend when they all shut down. And I was left disappointed again. But disappointment wasn’t new to me. So why did this time hit different? The truth was, this reoccurring relationship with disappointment had reached its last leg. And the experience of walking through that meant I didn’t really have the option to pretend that I was fine; because I hadn’t been fine for some time, even before I failed at my business and lost my home.
Although I was raised in the church, I had lived an experience that seemed to feel like I was watching God move from the other side of the window. This experience: the discrepancy between what I have come to hear that God can do, and what I had actually seen God do (or say no to doing) caused certain questions to bubble up in my faith. The kind of questions that obedient believers are not supposed to ask about our beliefs. Questions like: “If God is a healer, why didn’t he heal my mother from ALS? If God is a protector, why did he allow another believer to molest me at 8 years old? And if God is a restorer, why did it take my mother’s passing to end years of domestic violence in my home? And lastly, if God so loved the world, how can we as the American Church put so much emphasis on an abundant life in material wealth, when there are third world countries that praise Him with so much less?”
Thirty-eight years of devastation, grief, and disappointment created doubt, and I began to realize the system of beliefs that I had grown to learn was no longer enough. At this point, I was no longer interested in the Jesus that I was told about, but the authentic relationship with Him that I could experience. This pursuit for the truth at the expense of realizing the fallacy in what I had come to know felt like another loss, another ending. What I had come to learn that year actually became the opposite: it became the beginning.
So, what exactly is the process of deconstruction?
It is a pulling apart of the belief system you were raised in. It’s what happens when the questions that we have pushed down our whole life finally float to the top, and you’re forced to confront honestly your doubts.
For me, trauma and the responsibility of the constant pursuit in receiving my healing was not an experience that I asked for. But it was the cards that I was given. So as an adult, I strived to make the trauma count by redefining it into purpose. It became everything I did, my identity, my label, my career. Couple that with the fact that we as the church have not mastered mental and behavioral health or trauma in our congregational communities, and we have a recipe for hurt and doubt and an unhealthy relationship with faith. What is paved with good intentions of encouraging words “to not be anxious”, “to smile and remember what God has done” actually created more harm emotionally as I never felt heard or seen. It supported the performance of being fine, of being a leader, and being strong. However, this wasn’t truth. And it wasn’t God. I was not my story and the things that happened to me beyond my control. I was not built to remain strong at the expense of my mental and emotional health. I was however, created to be a daughter of the most High God. And I needed time to process events that happened. Because I was not fine, in fact my relationship with disappointment left me suicidal. And this time, Jesus and I needed a real talk. So, in April of 2019 I demanded it. I asked God with everything left in me to show me if He was real for myself. I was specific. I told Him that I didn’t want to hear it from another Pastor, another text from friends, another Instagram inspirational meme. If we had relationship and He was real, I needed Him to speak to me and show me. As His child, as my Father. And if He didn’t, I was ready to leave the faith completely.
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At the time, I thought that was where I was farthest from God. Who was I to give God an ultimatum and be prepared to turn my back completely if He didn’t come through? However, in hindsight, I believe that was the very moment I was closest to Him. In that moment I surrendered my preconceived notions of Him. In that moment I released everything that I was taught. And in that moment, I turned my heart and ear to accept no other voice but His. And He met me there.
Shortly after, my process in transition moved significantly for the best. He placed me in a new job among believers at a Faith Based University. This position allowed the opportunity to meet a coworker that would soon relentlessly pursue me to visit her church when I was over church. In saying yes, I was introduced to a church home that serves with the heart of the Father. Ironically, I now teach there.
He then started ministering to me as a person. He started revealing to me my root issues and healed every single area. Low self-esteem was replaced with a confidence that can only come by the Father. He began to show me how He sees me. And I love every bit of her.
I honestly believe my process of deconstructing these values impressed onto me and surrendering to the process of reconciliation was where truth really was found.
DECONSTRUCTION TO RECONCILIATION
Fear is one of the major things that keeps people from starting the process of deconstruction. Fear of the unknown. Fear of rejection by your community for doubting. However, doubt is not the opposite of Faith; Apathy is.
I am reminded of the interaction between Thomas and Jesus in John 20: 24-27. In this passage, Jesus appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection. One particular disciple, Thomas, doubted that this man was in fact, Jesus. Moreover, Thomas stated: “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” In that moment, Jesus responded in a way that we often do not as believers: He did not condemn Thomas. Instead, Jesus responded to his doubt by presenting His hands and His body and inviting Thomas to believe again.
During my initial deconstruction, I quickly realized that Jesus was not afraid of my questions or my doubts because it was the genuine seeking of Him that He responded to. However, although much like Thomas, my place of doubt is where HE met me and responded, He was not going to leave me to stay there. This is where the next phase began: Reconstruction.
My reconstruction was the process of building me back up from scratch; a blank slate. This place of surrender was a shedding of old theologies and a journey in learning the value of sitting in the presence of the Holy Spirit. He began to speak to me in my dreams again. I knew peace again. And he added balance where things were unbalanced. Everything that I thought I lost, I never needed and everything I gained and continue to gain was exactly what was designed for me: reminders throughout the day that He loves me and sees me, reconciliation of relationships, and peace beyond all understanding. I began moving toward reconciliation with my one true love, my Father and healing for every wound in my life.
In this transition to reconciliation, nothing has been the same. I went through a process of unlearning and relearning who Christ is in my life. Although deconstruction of my faith was never intended to be my full journey, it was a necessary step in my spiritual one. The very questions and doubts that I had been fighting for so long, ended up being a beautiful invitation from the Holy Spirit to draw closer and to trust Him in this journey that He set for me. As long as we cling to Him, we are never off path. And we can be encouraged every step of the way.