this is the 5th post in a series here on rebuilding after deconstructing and navigating through deep shifts in our faith. the other posts are: introduction, 1. honoring the process, 2. acknowledging losses. 3. discovering what remains. thank you for all of the responses. hard but beautiful stuff.
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every wednesday night at our house we have a “house of refuge”. it’s a wild, diverse & open group that’s been meeting since the refuge started in 2006. we share a meal & spiritual conversation lead by a different person each week (i call it “spiritual show and tell”). it’s so fun (and wacky, too). a few years ago, a friend shared at our group a significant truth from alcoholics anonymous that i have never forgotten. she has a lot of sobriety and has helped many others along the way. she shared that when it comes to getting sober, people need to do “whatever works” (that doesn’t harm or hurt ourselves or anyone else).
desperate circumstances require desperate measures. whatever works means finding something that keeps us sober so that we can get some healing underneath our belt and get on more solid ground.
these words have lingered, and as someone who journeys with a lot of hurting people related to life & faith, i use it all the time.
when we are in a battle to rebuild our faith, we need to do whatever works.
when we’re tired, hurting, and confused, we can’t worry about spiritual technicalities and what other people deem as must-have-beliefs-or-practices-that-“count” as spiritual enough. these are things that got a lot of us into trouble in the first place.
from what i can tell, God is not a God of technicalities.
people are. but God’s not.
God is bigger than our boxes–and other people’s boxes, too.
part of rebuilding our faith requires finding ways to connect with God & our souls that make us come more alive.
finding what works is about experimenting with practices and ways of being that create life, passion, and connection. God is in those places, even if none of these areas seem overtly “spiritual” in the weird & limiting ways we have been taught to define it. we must keep bridging the divide between the sacred and the secular and respect that God is always present–revealing, stirring, challenging, reminding, healing, inspiring, convicting, loving.
i realize some of your evangelometers might be going off right now, flashing “warning, warning–whatever works is dangerous, whatever works is dangerous.” but on this rebuilding & renewal process, i am going to firmly say that i think any connection with God is better than no connection with God. technicalities, forced-practices, and assuming that God needs our “perfect” ideas about the Bible, typical church, and certain specifics in order to show up will wreck our rebuilding because it’s just far too limiting.
remember my friend’s sharing–when people are getting sober, they need to find whatever works. it’s not forever. over time, those-in-recovery will have to do all kinds of other things & participate in all kinds of other practices that don’t feel great as part of our healing. as people of faith, people renewing our faith, whatever works won’t work forever. there are many times we will need to engage in different practices we don’t like in order to grow.
just not right now.
some of those practices almost ruined us so we can’t expect them to bring us life today. during the time of trying to find our way back to God & hope & faith & more secure ground, i strongly and firmly believe we need to start with whatever works.
here are some of the ways “whatever works” can look:
what makes us feel alive? what makes us feel loved? what are we passionate about? do those, do those, do those. try not to evaluate its spiritual-depth but just enjoy the feelings of connection & hope.
there are lots of ways to connect with God . this exercise is really freeing, check it out if you haven’t already.
if reading the Bible freaks us out right now, put it on the shelf and find something else to read that is inspiring and challenging.
if we miss the Bible and want to try to open it again, do, and allow ourselves the practice of reading it for its beauty instead of study or in any way that inspires & challenges.
if connecting with God as father is jacking us up, consider another aspect of God’s character and image that does bring life (i often ask–what part of God do you want to connect with, do you really need right now & start there. a lot of people say Jesus as my friend but there are a lot of aspects of God to work with!).
practice soul care – rest, play, fun, art, music, movies, beauty. when our souls are nurtured & strengthened & find rest and peace, God is there. (i meet God at the movies almost every time).
go to the social hour at church & visit with people you love…then leave when they start preaching or singing or whatever-might-cause-an-allergic-reaction.
dig down and find what feels helpful to us, not what we see someone else doing or think we “should” be doing. keep asking–what helps? what helps us feel more alive, more human, more awake?
for me, one of the most sustaining pieces of my faith journey has been sticking with what makes my heart come alive–people. community & connection & conversations have been my “whatever works” and have kept me tethered to God. i am often criticized for not being spiritual-enough, biblical-enough, christian-enough. but i don’t care because people have kept my faith alive.
and i’m pretty sure that’s enough for God.
it’s certainly enough for me.
what’s “working” for you right now?
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tomorrow: celebrating what was