rebuilding after deconstructing

kathyescobar faith shifts, healing, spiritual formation 55 Comments

blog reconstruction after deconstruction“see i’m doing a new thing.
now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
i am making a way in the wilderness,
streams in the wasteland.”

– isaiah 43:19-20

* * *

i know many people who have gone, are going through, or will go through a gut-wrenching, excruciatingly painful and lonely season in their faith called “deconstruction.”

where much of what we believe shifts.
where things we once held dear unravel.
where the number of questions begin to overtake all of our past certainties.
where we find ourselves saying “uh oh, our faith might be in big trouble.”
where we lose the safety of familiar communities because we’ve changed.

it’s scary stuff.

we can laugh about the slippery slope, but when we’re in the middle of the free-fall, it’s anything but funny.

some of us enter deconstruction willingly.  we sat through too many church services that made us queazy with songs-with-words-we-stopped-feeling-good-about-singing, predictable messages, certainty, and focus on belief instead of practice.  something stirred within us and we started asking the questions swirling around in our head.

others of us were pushed into deconstruction by wounding church experiences. we saw one too many inconsistencies, abuses of power, or crazy-stuff-that-only-insiders-sometimes-see that pushed us over the edge and called everything into question.

there are many ways we find ourselves on this scary, weird, unexpected path, but our stories probably have many of the same threads–doubt, emptiness, loneliness, sadness, fear, anger, and confusion.

over the years i have seen many dear friends walk away from the system and find a renewed faith outside of “the church.”

others have found new faith communities to worship & grow that gave them freedom & space.

i have also seen many completely ditch all-things-God, sure that there’s nothing left for them anymore.

a chunk of others have made a u-turn back, having stuck their toe in the murky waters of a different, free-er faith and realized that anything new was just too weird & uncomfortable.

one thing that makes me the most sad about “church” is how few places we have for deconstruction.  the mystics and desert mothers & fathers knew that seeking something deeper was a natural part of spiritual growth.  they weren’t afraid of questions & doubts and trusted the guiding, faithful work of the Holy Spirit to keep showing sojourners the way.  we, however, have built systems, buildings, and organizations upon certainty, right belief, and a clear path that makes us feel comfortable.

because of this, most of our groups don’t know quite what to do with deconstructors.

honestly, had it not been for the refuge i’m not sure where i would have landed.  i have had a safe space to wrestle with this hard stuff.  although i believe i’ll always be in process,  i do find myself on firmer ground than in years past, more able to say with confidence “this is the direction i am walking” and not worry as much about what others think.

often, when deconstructors start to rebuild, we can feel guilty about it.  we worry that others who haven’t rebuilt anything will think we’re being stupid or playing too safe.  some deconstructors wear a badge of honor that says “see, we picked it all apart and we’re a lot smarter than everyone else” (trust me, i’m not throwing stones on this one!).  there are also many others who don’t wish this pain on anyone because they know the costs.

at the same time, when others around them are rebuilding and finding firmer ground to stand on, deconstructors can feel extra-sad and even more off-kilter when they are still in such a different place.

on this process, we cannot follow the crowds or people-please or do-what-we-think-good-christians-are-supposed-to-do.  all of that will get us into more trouble.

rebuilding requires bravely finding our own unique path with God, and there are many ways to build something new.

over time, i’ve discovered there’s a lot more written about deconstructing than rebuilding.  rebuilding is touchy because for many it can feel like pressure to “come back to the christian system” instead of helping people find a renewed faith. 

please know i care about faith more than systems.  God is big and works in all kinds of wild & beautiful ways. part of renewed faith may include becoming part of something clearly-defined-as-“church” again, but it might not, too.  (but i’m not afraid to say i always hope it includes some form of community, connection with people and our passions that is challenging & satisfying).

i love easter because it’s a symbol of a time of re-birth, renewal, resurrection, and rebuilding.  in the spirit of this season, i have a short series of posts centered on the process of rebuilding & renewal after deconstructing–how do we find our way to a new place in our faith after walking away from so much of it? 

i’ll start with 7 posts over two weeks until it’s done (otherwise it lasts forever & i get lost).

here they are, broad areas that help on the path of rebuilding:

  • honoring the process
  • acknowledging losses
  • discovering what remains
  • finding what works
  • celebrating what was
  • igniting passion
  • exploring possibilities

there are many others, but these are the ones that i have stumbled & bumbled upon in my own journey and through participating with others as a spiritual midwife in different ways.  a few blog posts won’t make or break anyone’s process.  but i hope that those who feel a little lost & lonely, wondering how in the $*@^$&!? they ended up here, might gather some love & light & direction for this wild & crazy journey toward something new.

i pray for each of us, that we’ll keep finding our way.

* * * * *

a few other things i wanted to quickly highlight:

  • new addition to the blog–a facebook “like” button.  i’m really technologically challenged on these kinds of things so any development feels like major progress.  thanks for using (if you actually like it, ha ha).
  • my brave & lovely blog friend sarah bessey created the change she wanted to see by pulling together a list of 50 church & faith female bloggers after a 200-person list recently was released with less than 10 women on it (yes, people, we still have a long way to go on real change).  check out some of these passionate & wise & often-overlooked voices here: