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