Faith deconstruction is a wild roller coaster.
Somedays, listening to a Christian pastor or reading an excerpt from the bible is triggering and painful. I’m transported to a time of my life where I felt like every decision had to be overthought out and picked apart to death. My self autonomy was nonexistent and I was paralyzed, terrified of making the wrong decision.
Other days, I can listen to that same pastor and find morsels of truth. I may accidentally inhale a full book of the bible in minutes, fully captivated by the ancient text that speaks to nearly every theme and emotion of the human experience. Aaaand then I’ll swing back to the awful gut knowingness of just how much abuse and misuse of power that this one book has caused countless generations and people groups. And it falls under my bed for another month.
This process of unlearning and relearning isn’t easy, and it’s certainly not black and white.
Disclaimer — before you start reading this…my thoughts may change tomorrow. But for what it’s worth, here’s a peek into my brain, with no real agenda or structure. I share this in hopes that it may lead you to some personal introspection for yourself. To maybe think about who you want to be; not just for yourself, but for your community.
Somedays I feel like if I call myself a Christian again that means attaching myself to a looot of things I just flat out will never agree with because of my own mental health journey and/or personal convictions. But other days I see the word “Christian” and think…gosh, despite the shit that the Big C Church has caused…what I wouldn’t give for people to experience me as a “Little Christ”.
The Jesus who loved, gave of Himself and centered others. He was fearless, stood up for the poor and the powerless. Sacrificed everything to bring others life. Life that involves more than just an “I’m saved” prayer, play the can’t wait to get to heaven card, blah blah blah… But rather a life transformed here on earth, marked by honest generosity and a devotion to justice and love.
From my experience, Big C Church (not all churches of course, but I’m going to generalize here for argument’s sake)…more often than not, Big C Church inadvertently has removed the need for its followers to fully employ their individual human consciousness and rational thought. Which in my opinion, can’t be what God (Divine, Power, Spirit, fill in the blanks) wants for people.
In the same way that forced love, isn’t true love… A forced obedience without a true engagement of our minds is not true enlightenment.
I like to think that maybe God enjoys grey. He is God and we are humans after all. It would be kind of weird if we were suddenly all-knowing. In my experience, humans have a deep curiosity and obsession with learning, relearning and discovering. We listen to the stories of other people, especially those unlike ourselves, in order to uncover nuggets of truth within their stories. How powerful could that sort of engagement with ourselves and others be? To be humble enough to admit that at the end of the day, there is more that we do not know than what we do know.
What Joy must God experience when we authentically share our human existence with one another? And then make decisions that move us towards loving ourselves, God and our communities better? Just because God as a “being,” in Himself may or may not be black and white — is that how He wants us to experience life on earth? Doesn’t that deny Him of the beauty and mysteries of God? The surprises of His provision and faithfulness in our lives?
Personally, I am finally at a place where I am not immediately anxiety-ridden when someone mentions Jesus or a very Christianese phrase. Sometimes I even get excited to engage. It’s not because I’m like, “Oh hell yeah I’m all in, sign me up for team Jesus.” But I am looking for answers and I do know deep down why I fell in love with God’s story when I was 16. Words like redemption, home, purpose, newness…these words and ideas filled soul holes that on my own I could not explain or fill. When stripped away from all the generational abuse and mistreatment of entire people groups, the Jesus story is a calling over our lives to be in service to others, no matter what the “other” looks like or thinks.
To get more personal and less ethereal with this subject matter… I still believe in God because He has healed me of so much pain and provided for me in ways that I can’t even begin to comprehend or explain. And that’s wild…and I almost feel scared to admit this…
I’m scared to fully reattach myself to the Christian faith because I don’t want to be robotic. Not that Christians are robots, but for me, when I think on my experience, I wasn’t fully engaged with God or people with my full soul and was floating through my decisions and actions. And I’d hate to be a robot who hurts people. Being a human, I hurt people plenty on my own, thank you very much!
Like many others, my life’s roller coaster has been hard. Which is why I think suffering is incredibly purposeful. In the hard, I’ve experienced and felt first hand what words like “Grace” and “Forgiveness” mean. Not in a cerebral way, but in a deep knowingness in my soul kind of way. In a way that I did not experience when I tried manufacturing emotions while singing on a Sunday morning. Praying inside sterile walls, doing my best to hide my pain and questions, just to keep my good standing with the flock.
If I’m being fully transparent, I don’t want to lose my personality, authenticity, doubts or interests if I say I love God. And I know this lie is coming from toxic theology, not from God. I was involved in a Christian group that made me feel like I had to lose all of those things if I wanted to be a “true” Christian. To be a full “servant,” I’d have to die to myself and become a missionary. And that’s what I did. And that’s just so wrong, or it was for me at least.
I have never felt more creative, expressive, caring and generous with my life and resources than I have during these past few years of deconstruction. At times (most times)…hell yeah, I’ve been broken and messed up. I’ve hurt myself and people I love. I still do, and I still will. I’ve made mistakes that I’m still trying to forgive myself for. But I also saw God’s love in my friendships, in strangers, in the undeserved kindness that came completely out of left field.
For these reasons and many other moments that I will keep treasured deep in my heart, I don’t believe God ever left me. I think He smiled when I yelled at Him. Let me curse Him and cry angry tears, knowing that behind the anger and frustration was just fear and sadness. Kind of like when a little kid throws a full blown temper tantrum in front of their dad.
This kind of relationship dynamic reminds me of a profound moment that happened to me when I was 24 years old. I was so sure that I HAD to marry my now ex-husband. Christians after all…we marry, we don’t date. (Whaddup toxic Christian purity culture!). My dad, as rational and kind as he was (is), respectfully disagreed and thought I was a bit too young. He said I wasn’t sure what I was saying yes to. But nooo proud, born-again Katie knew she was right. I went so far as to even kick and break a cabinet door in my living room to express my frustration.
Suddenly realizing what my fit of rage had caused, I ran outside and sat on the street curb. Fists clenched, exhaling quickly because I’m fairly certain I was holding my breath the entire time I was yelling at him.
About 10 minutes later, my Dad walked outside and said… “I bet you needed to do that.” I will never forget that. Even though I was 100% in the wrong, looking back I should have never married my ex, and hello…I broke his damn cabinet. Yet, my dad saw me. He saw there would be no convincing me out of my convictions. He chose to love me and let me make my own mistakes, knowing I would figure it out in due time.
Just like my dad, God is good. He knows me and if I had to put money on it…I bet He knows you too. And I bet He isn’t the same one-size fits all God that has been shoved into today’s vernacular, spewing this hateful “Us v. Them” fear mongering ideology down our throats.
So to (some) of my Christian readers. I get it, this may be triggering for you because I’m sharing things that may not line up with your theology or pulpit vocabulary. That isn’t a surprise to me. But this isn’t for you. This isn’t for anyone really…though I certainly welcome conversation and questions if it can be done in a respectful and productive environment. I share this to simply acknowledge that we are all a work in progress.
I may look back on this word vomit of a thinkpiece in 5 years and LAUGH. Like, literally laugh out loud at myself. And think, that’s cute, Kate… That’s what you thought life was about? But you know what…I hope I laugh at myself. I hope I am stronger, smarter, more creative and more humble in 5 years. I hope present day Katie looks like a rambunctious little kid compared to 5 years from now Katie. Because I now believe in mistakes, patience and progress. And sometimes those things are not revealed to us in the present time.
All that to say… If you are reading this, thank you. You are a patient, kind human who values the journey of others, and I think that makes you a badass. And I’m excited for whatever journey you are on and would love to hear about it. Be it about God or not, I hope the same is true for you. That you will be a kinder, better version of yourself in 5 years. That you can embrace the messy side of life that leads to holistic growth.
Personally, I am excited for what reconstruction will look like in my life. Learning and seeing spirituality & God through these new eyes has been hard, but oh so freeing.
Be well in this season, friends… O Come, O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.