rebuilding: finding life again.

For the past 7 years now I have been writing about my own struggles with faith and doubt and church and have met so many awesome, sincere, wise, brave men and women who are wrestling with these same things, too.  It seems like one thing that really helps is to have some way to share the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful parts of Unraveling.

Over the years I was also really frustrated that even though a whole bunch of material was and has and is being written about deconstruction, either online or in print, most of it tended to either be personal memoirs or theological reflections. These kinds of materials are great and needed, but leaves a lot of us with no real tools and no idea what to do when we got to the bottom of it all.

Is it possible to rebuild something again related to faith?

Are there some things we could try to bring new life?

What kind of hope lies on the other side of a painful unraveling?

In 2012 I decided to write a series of posts called “Rebuilding After Deconstructing”, centered on possibilities for moving forward after everything we believed came apart. It was dangerous ground because faith shifters are a really touchy bunch. I ran the risk of offending people who might be completely resistant to formulas or how-to’s (trust me, I am, too) or feel pressure to try something they weren’t ready to try (no matter how many times I said “don’t try this if you don’t want to”) or thought it was an agenda to get them back into church (even though I have absolutely nothing invested in keeping the wheels of the institution spinning). I did it anyway, and I am so glad!

It touched a chord with many and was the primary catalyst for Faith Shift; the entire last third of the book is centered specifically on the season of Rebuilding.

Remember, you might draw the diagram differently or use different language to describe, but the major movements I believe are part of this crazy faith evolution process include: Fusing, Shifting, Returning (sometimes), Unraveling, Severing (for some people), and Rebuilding (when, at some point at the end of Unraveling, we feel ready to move forward in a new way, no matter how slow or small those steps might be).

I personally think Rebuilding comes either at the bottom of Unraveling or out of Severing. Just like you can’t shift without first having a fused faith, you can’t rebuild out of a small blip of an unravel.

After the grief, blood, guts, release, shedding, wrestling, the lighter load, comes a season where we might be ready for rebuilding something new. We want a more integrated faith experience guided by freedom, mystery, and diversity.

Here’s how you know you might be ready. In the book, I call them “Signs of Life”:

  • You are tired of being angry at the church.
  • You miss God and long for ways to engage spiritually again.
  • Your loneliness is too exhausting, and you need to find new friends with whom to share real life.
  • You’re through grieving your past and want to look toward the future.
  • You would like to try some fresh spiritual practices but have no idea where to start.
  • You feel done with church but not with God and/or Jesus, and you aren’t quite sure what shape that takes in real life.
  • You miss church and want to find some form of faith community that will quench your thirst for connection and inspiration.
  • You want to use your gifts, passions, and desire for justice and mercy in the world in tangible ways but aren’t sure how.
  • You wonder what parts of your faith might still be alive and if they are enough to sustain you.
  • You don’t give a rip what people think about you anymore because your spiritual journey doesn’t need to be explained or justified.
  • You are afraid to hope and open your heart again to God and others, but you know you will never get to a healthier, freer place unless you do.
  • You want to grow in a new way, not only for yourself but so you can pass on something of substance to your children too (pp. 129-130).

Any of these feel familiar?

If you find yourself in this place at the end of Unraveling, it seems like the way to something new can include some possibilities.  The book fleshes each of these out in much more detail, chapter by chapter, with stories and ideas to reflect on and consider, but here’s a brief overview:

Discover what remains. / Even though we’ve lost so much related to faith, usually something remains that we still believe, no matter how small or big.

Find what works. / Try spiritual practices that makes your heart come alive. There are so many options that many of us have never considered because of narrow church experiences. Avoid the tendency to separate the spiritual from the secular and consider more importantly what brings life.

Celebrate what was. / Usually there’s some good back in Fusing that’s worth remembering, things to celebrate and honor from our past. This can be a difficult exercise for some but in the end, it does help in healing and moving forward.

Ignite passions. / Many of us have dreams  we might have shelved of the course of our faith journeys. It seems a lot of these dreams fall into the categories of love, justice, and beauty. Part of coming alive is exploring and stepping into them in small and big ways.

Explore possibilities for community./ Part of the loneliness in Unraveling is the loss of community; finding new ways to gather with people, reconsidering church, and nurturing connections from a changed place is hard to do but can bring life (pp. 139-200).

The bottom line of Rebuilding–trust the path and keep it simple. There’s new life on the other side.

It’s been fun for me to walk through these stages here over the last 6 days and hope that the book keeps getting in the right hands.

I’d love to hear any of your thoughts from the book or on Rebuilding. What’s helped you? 

//

Next here: Christianity’s Faith Shift

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

4 Comments

  • I am soooo ready for the rebuilding but, it seems like at every turn I run into some kind of road block when I am trying to move forward and find that community. I emailed you with some questions about it, Kathy, I hope you will see it before you head out on your vacation 🙂 thanks for any help if you are able to reply … I hope you enjoy every minute of summer with your family 🙂

    Reply
  • I think committing to a particular place where I become rooted creates the context for being the body of Christ together with others in everyday life. This has helped me to see the church as a network of relationships in a place instead of a meeting or building we go to. This has helped me to rebuild my faith as I have been living in Downtown Tacoma, WA for just over eleven years now. I think collaboration in the place we live over competition is crucial to connect with others in community. As a means of collaboration, I have moved to the Tacoma Catholic Worker in my neighborhood where we have 8 houses within a block. We practice friendship and hospitality with lots of marginalized people where we live. For me, I think developing a contemplative spirituality is so essential for sustaining any kind of perseverance to our work. It seems that others things that are helpful in connecting with others in community and rebuilding are understanding the Enneagram, Nonviolent Communication, and developing an AA culture of sorts where people can connect on vulnerable and authentic, honest ways by sharing their struggles, pain and stories without fear. Eating together and hospitality are also important to becoming neighbors in everyday life. I think really looking at becoming neighbors together (this may mean moving in proximity to one another) is so important. Rebuilding is about loving our neighbors together as the body of Christ in everyday life. This will bring us a practice of mystery, justice and freedom. Practicing a greater level of simplicity and shared life will be necessary to rebuilding. If we really want to rebuild we have to make some serious shifts to how we live as Richard Rohr says “we do not think our way into a new way of living, we live our way into a new way of thinking.” To me this represents the more biblical idea of what Jesus had in mind for his body to live out instead of our Western paradigms of church that has been doing so much damage to the world. Kathy I love what you say in your book, “What can help in the Rebuilding process is widening the definition of what community and connection could be… We’ve got to create more expansive definitions of what community can be” (p.190). I absolutely love that quote toward the end of the book! I think that’s what we all need to be working toward in some way.

    Reply
  • The book is due to arrive any day and I am desperate to dive in. Thank you so much, Kathy, for thinking of writing a book like this. I’m feeling a little vindicated. I knew I couldn’t be the only person going through this. People really don’t talk about it much, so everyone tends to wander around feeling like they are all alone. Thanks to you, we are not alone. Have a wonderful Summer.
    ~Rachel in Atlanta

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