After Deconstruction, What Remains?

Some of us may feel like the bastion of certainty that used to be our faith is now riddled with bullet holes. Few walls remain standing. Some may feel that their spiritual life has suffered so many body slams, they aren’t sure if there is any pulse remaining. I read a poignant confession from someone who misses Jesus like a widow yearning for a lost lover, or of an amputee having ghost feelings in a lost limb. She said that she misses the comfort in knowing that sweet Jesus is with her and looking out for her. She misses praying the prayers that she now no longer believes to be valid prayers.

I’ve been through a massive deconstruction myself, and while I do feel some measure of loss, it isn’t the fade-to-black despair that perhaps many are feeling. It is more like how I miss being a child—the innocence, the comfort, and the safety—or how I miss being a teenager—the certainty, the limitless options, and the zero commitments. But, I am SOOO glad that I grew up, because maturity is so much better (and more fun) than immaturity. 

I believe God himself is for our deconstruction, in the same way he was for tearing down the Old Testament religious system that he had established. He is a builder, yes. But, he’s also a renovator. He isn’t nervous about our deconstructing or our big questions—okay, well maybe a little, but in the same way a parent might be nervous for their pre-pubescent 11-year-old. Yet, God is also excited for the changes that happen in our bodies and in our emotions as we grow older. Because maturity is beautiful. And maturity is the direction he is taking all of us. The hole-ridden faith we now weakly hold up with all of our apologies and excuses was actually meant to have holes in it (all along, it was swiss cheese God wanted). It was our traditions, or evangelicalism, or whatever other religious notions that we inherited or concocted that we used to stuff the holes because we thought they were unattractive. We thought it was our job to stuff the holes, to fill in the blanks. And God says, “why’d you do that? I put those blanks there for a reason.” It is his nature and role to give us more blanks, to open our spirits up to the questions, the gaps, the pauses, the beats, the silences…so, we…can…be…in…them. 

If we feel as if our 50 lb. faith has been whittled down to 5 ounces, it is a good thing. God wants to unburden us. He wants to lighten our load. He wants us to be open to really living and loving others. (It’s hard to do so with big agendas.) 

1 Corinthians 13 has been an anchor in my deconstruction—not in the heavy sense, but in the “everything will be okay” sense. The apostle Paul was in the job of helping others deconstruct. Try reading his epistles again with that in mind. They are documents of deconstruction: helping Jews get the fact that the Old Covenant was dead and that the Gentiles were included (everyone’s been invited to the party, now); helping Gentiles not get tripped up by thinking they needed to add a little Moses-salt to their Jesus feast (that stuff is poison now); and, of course, to simply communicate his affection and care to people he deeply loved (he never set out to write religious documents, just letters to friends). And at the end of “the love chapter,” after emasculating our frenzied lust for more knowledge, more gifts, more stuff to fill in the holes, he concludes, “you should have only three things remaining: faith, hope, and love…and if you really want to boil it down to one, it’s love.” (Paraphrase mine). 

So, what’s the point of our deconstruction? It is so that everything that can be shaken, everything that entangles, everything that burdens and distracts and confuses us, will be removed, until all that remains is our swiss-cheese faith, the substance of which is love. May God bless us with the grace to see these three things, to hold on to them, to know that God hasn’t gone anywhere…He waits in the gaps, in the blanks, not in the answers but in the questions, to meet with us there and together to fill them with what remains.