When You Fear Deconstruction

When I was seven I almost drowned.  My family and I had gone to the beach for a leisurely afternoon.  Because I had yet to learn to swim, I decided to see how far I out I could wade into the water. I walked out to where the water reached my abdomen, then my chest, then my shoulders, then my chin. Feeling brave I took a few more steps. There I was, standing on tippytoes, with my head tilted backwards and my neck craned upwards, and the water resting just beneath my nose. I had reached my limit. 

I started to push back into the shore, but by this time the current began to push against me.  And because I was on tippy-toes, I couldn’t find solid footing. It was a fight to just stand in place. With every passing second, I feared being pushed out to sea. It wasn’t long for utter panic to set in.

Discouragement in our faith can feel like this. We wonder if we can hold on to our faith amid our questions or doubts. We wrestle with prayer, and the water of discontent rises. We feel far from God, and the discouragement grows stronger. Little by little, the shoreline of faith gets smaller and smaller, until we find ourselves straining to retain some semblance of the faith we once felt.

And amid it all, we are terrified.  We are terrified because at any moment we fear being swept away into the void of faith deconstruction, where everything we once believed becomes abandoned. Who will be, as faithful people, if we allow this to occur?

Despite the current popularity surrounding faith deconstruction, and the language describing it as a process of liberation and freedom, spiritual deconstruction is a terrifying endeavor. This is because deconstruction contains no guardrails; it is entirely self defined. In fact, the deconstruction of faith seems almost entirely defined by what it lacks, rather than what is retained.  Because of this, deconstruction involves a deep sense of loss.

Deconstruction unmoors us, it leaves us drifting aimlessly through our questions and struggles. Yet these questions or struggles are rarely answered or addressed; rather, they are displaced or abandoned. We deconstruct prayer, for example, by deciding that God lacks the ability to intervene in our lives. Or, we decide that holding the beliefs and practices of Christian tradition makes us “company men”, thoughtlessly parroting a propaganda designed to keep us in our spiritual place. [1]

But does believing this this ever release us from our worries or anxieties? Do our spiritual struggles go away?

The fad of deconstruction makes it appear as if questions and struggles must lead us in this direction. But what do you do if you don’t want to deconstruct your faith?  What do you do if you fear that faith deconstruction will be faith abandonment? How do you wrestle with your questions, concerns, or struggles without feeling pushed away from the faith, and a God, you deeply love?

It sounds trite, I know, but the way forward is to keep your eyes on the shore. Stubbornly fix your eyes upon the faith that you long to reengage with. Dare to believe that you are not abandoned to the waters. When I was struggling in the ocean, I worked as hard as I could to remain some connection to the shoreline. I struggled. I fought.  And I cried. Eventually, my father, raced down the beach and scooped me up out of the water. This is what God does for us. The end of our struggle is not found in new realizations, but in a new experience of our Heavenly Father.

Spiritual discouragement, unlike deconstruction, gives voice to the problems, challenges, struggles, and wrestling that go with our faith journey. Discouragement doesn’t pretend that faith is easy or uncomplicated. But nor does it suggest that the life is found in allowing the waters to take over. We can be faithful and discouraged at the same time.

In fact, our desire to retain our faith makes our questions worth journeying through. Yes, we may wade those waters for longer than we would like, yet we do so under the watchful eye of the Lord. We are never alone. Ultimately, the faith that anchors us promises us that redemption will come.

[1] This idea is put forward in Brian Mclaren’s recent book, “Do I say a Christian?”

One thought on “When You Fear Deconstruction

  1. Very thought provoking. Encouraged me to just stop and take a hold of all negative issues going on. To stay faithful in the midst of adversity. Not to waver. Just to rest in His peace and instruction. Amen.


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