I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
― Galileo Galilei
My deconstruction from the assumed, correct, never-to-be-questioned tenants of Christianity began with the coming out of my brother. I was raised by people who rendered it safe to ask questions. My parents, while accepting the church world they functioned within, also respected the institution enough to criticize it. I think this is the appropriate response when we love something or someone. We question, we debate, we criticize and seek compromise. This is not the sign of a hater, but the faithfulness of a lover.
Yes, we were required to do all the churchy things. We followed the “guidelines” of our denomination – as the pastor’s kids, we didn’t get much of a pass on the biggies: going to movies, dancing, drinking alcohol, smoking. None of this was of particular concern for me. I felt it my duty to be a good example, upholding the standards and I stood firm with a generous willingness. Many ask if I rebelled or despised this way of life. No, not really, not that I can recall. I gained a lot from being good. It served me. I had chips with God and believed in my sacrifices for righteousness.
Things really started careening in the 2008 Presidential election. It struck me as odd that Obama seemed to me more amenable to the things Christ cared about, yet Christians were supposed to vote Republican. My narrow view, which assumed all Christians were evangelicals, was tested and I could not understand this particular arrangement, this notion that right wing politics was God’s dream for America. It didn’t make sense. But I blamed myself. I believed I was wrong, that something inside of me was broken, that my questions were the problem and my doubt was a sign of misunderstanding. And I wasn’t smart enough.
Unfortunately for this Enneagram 1 and INFJ, feelings matter. If my gut and beliefs do not align, my gut wins. I find the rationale later, and it always comes, but this meant I was uncomfortable for almost a decade. I railed and questioned and I assumed something was wrong with me.
Meanwhile, through all of this, I was still attending church, I was still raising my babies with the idea that Sunday School is paramount and church attendance is god. We went. We served. We got tired. We got disillusioned. We switched churches. We rested. We recovered. We asked more questions. We returned to the original church. We sat and sang and stuck our kids in youth group. We stood and listened. We yelled. We prayed. We cried. We left.
I say we but most of this is me. Eric had far less attachment than I to the Christian ideals, but respected my process and desires.
The deconstruction is a messy and bloody battle. Some days I sit and stare out the window, trying to remain and be still. Other days I run and cry, yell and curse, the only antidote – Mumford and Sons really loud. I eat, I shop, I Netflix, I angry hike. All the while, remembering I am loved. My spiritual life, my faith has taken hits, but nothing has done lasting damage. In fact, I’m reinforced and I’m more certain in the path I am walking. Always, I am given “the next right thing” to do.
And now, I believe my reconstruction is quite complete. I have found a new space, new purpose, a generous expression of God’s presence in the world. I am encouraged and filled with more work than I know what to do with. I am going to be a pastor, and believe it or not, it’s what I’ve always done. But I still feel pain and grief. What American Christianity has done is unconscionable. So many have been devastated by what is supposed to be good and right and loving. And I’m not sure how to fix this. I have to push into the future, into what is supposed to be and I know that I am where I need to be.
I may someday achieve full and complete arrival. But I doubt it. I don’t want it. I’ve become rather fond of this nebulous space that presses and sends me toward discomfort and tension. My road isn’t paved with ease, nor is it paved with clarity. This expectation is a useless dream that I will never realize. I like it this way, though, to be honest. I like writing to figure out what I think. I like long and roundabout conversations with trusted comrades. I like answering my kids with I don’t know, what do you think? The older I get, the less certainty I have. And it seems I am fine. It seems that this weird space is good. It seems, as long as I remember how loved I am, I don’t need to be afraid.
When I’m confused. When I can’t sleep. When it all hurts. I rest my head on the ample bosom of God and ask: What’s wrong with me?
She always responds in the best way:
Nothing baby. You do your work and I’ll do mine. I love you. I’m proud of you.