Deconstruction is Not a DIY Project
My always-curious daughter noticed a snail on our driveway and asked if I knew where snails find their shells. Thanks to the wonders of Google, I was able to answer her question and learned that snails are born with the ability to grow their own shells. After they hatch, baby snails eat the casing they hatched from and use the calcium to begin to form shell material. Much like a fingernail is attached to a finger, the shell is attached to the body of the snail and grows as the snail grows. If damaged, the broken shell can become a threat to the snail’s survival.
This newly acquired knowledge of snails, and the importance of the integrity of their shells, reminded me of a few other conversations swirling around in my brain:
I recently listened to a podcast where the host and his guest talked about their shared experience of the “deconstruction” of their faith.
Stories of rejection and disappointment woven through with wounding due to misrepresented scriptures and toxic doctrine poured out. Questions of the goodness of God and the trustworthiness of his followers were asked over and over. They shared their journey of doubting, searching, shifting, and tearing down what was once seen as “truth,” for the sake of going after something/someone even more true. Their processing and wrestling was riddled with the tension between the chains of bitterness and the joy of freedom, and I found myself resonating with all of it.
In the last month, I have had a number of conversations with friends who are also walking through seasons of spiritual deconstruction.
They’ve shared their stories of abuse and pain, and how their understanding of who God is has helped, or hurt, their healing process. We’ve talked about finding comfort in Scripture and trusting that God is big enough to handle doubts and anger and all the emotions that come with questioning one’s faith. I’ve shared my experiences and empathized with the turmoil that comes with being a finite creature wondering what it the world is happening in the mind of your infinite Creator.
They are not easy conversations.
Here’s another quick fact about the snail and its shell: If the conditions become too hot or too cold, it will bury itself in the ground, and crawl into its shell for up to three years. It is not uncommon for snails to die due to their self-burial, especially if they are crawling into a damaged shell.
So, what happens when our faith is rocked and we begin to deconstruct what once felt like a safe and solid covering?
I propose that unless we invite trusted people into our process (as messy and unpredictable as it might be) our tendency will be to begin digging a hole.
As I think about the buried snail and my hurting friends and my own seasons of soul-renovation, I’m convinced that the process of spiritual deconstruction should not happen in isolation. Wrestling through the theologies we were fed as children is a necessary part of our growth. Questioning the goodness of God when tragedy strikes is a part of being human. Changing churches, debating over doctrine, wondering which translation of the Bible is most accurate — all of it can be a play a role in the deconstruction of our faith. All of it can also be incredibly overwhelming.
The process of deconstruction is always messy.
There is nothing predictable or safe about tearing down walls that have stood for years. But the work doesn’t have to end with the mess on the floor. The holes and cracks and crushed places don’t have to stay unfinished. From hidden places of despair, faith can grow.
Even the deepest wounds can be healed. Souls that have been buried can experience the freedom of restoration.
If you have a friend who is navigating a soul-renovation, consider responding in the following ways:
Listen to their stories.
Empathize with their disappointments.
Love sincerely and with devotion (Romans 12: 9-10)
Be available to help them rebuild when they are ready (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
The Master Designer has the blueprints ready.
If you are walking through your own season of deconstruction, fight against the pull to self-bury. As the lies of shame and fear and rejection try to heap dirt over your wounded soul and push you towards isolation, speak the truth of the Father’s gentle and unrelenting love over yourself. God is not surprised or disappointed by your questions and doubts.
He will never leave you alone.
“…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
Amber is a Cali girl living in the PNW with her husband of almost-15 years and three kiddos. She is currently a graduate student and is preparing to launch her career as a Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapist in the Portland area. Amber loves day trips to the ocean, and her favorite treats are Chai tea and macaroons.