Deconstruction is a word that, whether read in someone’s story or mentioned in a conversation over a meal, there is a mental sigh that I sit into, thinking “ah… you too, huh?”
Although it takes on different forms and may land people in different places, it most always involves some sort of re-evaluating of the faith of one’s childhood and deciding what to keep, what to toss out, and what needs to change and grow as you wrestle with the harder questions of life and God and faith.
For some, larger questions loom:
Is this God thing really true? Or was it all just a myth and story?
How can I follow a God that (seemingly) condemns people to hell?
If Jesus called his followers to love, why is the church known more for what she hates?
Why does it seems like Christians have just built another holiness code?
It all can feel so empty when you are in that place… and I know some people never come out of it.
I am living proof (along with many others) – that you can. You can question the faith of your childhood and still come out with the belief that God is just as strong, just as present. Even if you feel you’ve gone through hell and back to get there.
I was recounting what deconstruction looked like for me not too long ago over breakfast with a new friend. I shared the “safe” version – and I was being honest of course, explaining how in my early 30’s I needed to stop reading the bible for a good solid two years. I was disillusioned with the church and how quickly people believe stories they are told without asking any questions. I didn’t know how to even begin to read the bible any more without hearing old voices and getting frustrated. I knew I still believed in God, and in Jesus, but I didn’t much like his followers for a while. They had hurt me too much. I needed to re-learn from a fresh pallet, when I didn’t have a fresh one to start with. So for two years I sat and just tried to maintain some semblance of listening for God, and asking Him to help me figure all this out. I wanted new. I wanted to see things HE saw and understand it the way HE intended. I needed new voices, not voices that told me only one side of the story,
After that breakfast, I realize I had forgotten a very large part of my own deconstruction story. Namely, the part where I, with fear and trembling, divorced myself from a belief that if I landed on a different place theologically than I had been taught my first decade of following Him, that he would reject me and hide His face from me forever. I remember the anguish of that recognition and that fear.
You see, I had been taught in church that to not follow God’s written word (and hold to the understanding exactly how it was taught to me) was to walk out from under God’s blessing. I was taught that if you do something without God specifically telling you to, you were walking in presumption and pride (and we all know pride comes before a fall). This always seemed in direct contradiction with Jesus telling us the greatest command was to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and strength. It seemed the mind part was always overlooked, except when it came to memorizing verses.
But there I was, one night at what I felt like a precipice of faith, a cliff, that I was about to jump off of, and I was scared. Because I could no longer accept some of the things I had been taught, as they seemed teachings that had put me in a cage of fear and doubt rather than given me the freedom I so desperately wanted as a child of God.
This wasn’t the first time either. One earlier cliff had been over whether or not we could move back to Virginia if God didn’t “tell” us to. I know, that might sound ridiculous to some of you, but again, I had been taught you needed to be LED in all things. But low and behold, when we decided not to move, we were not struck by lightning. (Although, I did have a dream I believe was from God where he poked a huge hole in that thinking of mine by showing me a map and saying “you could pick anywhere and I will still bless you”. Thank you, holy spirit)
For me, this next cliff was the one of condemning homosexuality. It was huge.
Before becoming a Christian, my only interaction with someone who was even possibly gay was a young man in my senior english class in high school. One day he whispered to me “Do you think it’s wrong to be gay?”. I had never even thought about it. “Well,” I said. “I am pretty sure its wrong for me but I guess you have to figure out if it’s right for you” I answered. After I became a Christian I was taught it was one of the worst sins possible, and that God hates homosexuality. For years I was caught between the concept of a God who loves deeply, a Savior who had dinner with people the religious wouldn’t be caught dead with, and the teaching of wrath for anyone who wasn’t straight. It just never sat right with me, but what was I to do?
Now let’s be honest here. Even as I explain this next part, I know some of you will write me off as having set aside the Word of God and counting it as nothing. Some of you will scoff and say “oh, she is just making scripture say what she wants it to say.” If you choose to read no further, I will understand. But I will tell you – that assumption could not be further from the truth. It is precisely because I love the scriptures that I take this so seriously.
I had been challenged by a friend, asking what if we were on the wrong side of this “issue”? Weren’t white Christians supportive of slavery because it was allowed in the bible? Weren’t white Christians supportive of segregation for some reason they believed was also scriptural (although for the life of me I cannot understand why). What if, when we are held accountable for all we have done and said, the Father asks why we kept the LGBTQ community at arms length and never welcomed them to the table?
What will our answer be then? Can we really say we have loved as Jesus did in that moment?
Those questions started me on a journey that took well over a year or two. I read everything I could get my hands on, whether stories, testimonies or historical documents, Greek studies, websites on both sides of the “issue”. You name it, I probably read it. It was exhausting, mentally and spiritually. After 7 months I had to set it all aside and take a break.
The weight of what I was finding was just too overwhelming.
After everything I had read, it seemed that it all boiled down to HOW you wanted to interpret the Greek in some passages, and WHAT you wanted to do with the historical explanations surrounding the passages and commands. On top of that, I had read stories of people who loved Jesus, grew up in good homes, were not abused, and yet knew they were attracted to the same sex from the time they were teens. What I thought could never live in tandem was right there in black and white.
In the light of the grace of Jesus, I realized I could no longer say I loved my brother and hold the LGBTQ community at a distance.
It scared the crap out of me to even be willing to admit that in my own head.
(For those of you who have read about the Enneagram…. I am a One. Which means I have a desperate desire to do things right before God. So you can imagine how huge this was, because for years I had been told there was only ONE way to view this.)
So there I was on my living room floor, having one of the most fearful conversations with the Lord I had ever had. After all I had read and studied, after months of prayer and consideration, I found myself landing in a place where I could no longer believe that God hated homosexuals. I was beginning to see it was very possible to be both gay (or LGBTQ) and Christian.
With great fear and trembling, I told the Lord that I was afraid of coming to this conclusion, but that it was the only way forward in love that I could see. I confessed that, because of earlier teaching, I was fearful that He would “release me from his cover of protection” and never speak to me again. It was devastating to me to even think about, but in the light of love I knew I had to change how I felt and acted, and my only choice was to ask for mercy.
The thought that I would never hear from God again was very real that night – and for someone for whom the voice of God is my very breath – it was a risk sown in tears. After years of being told what to think and believe, the thought of making this decision based on my own research left me full of fear, even though it landed in a place of love.
Five years later, I am fully convinced that the ground I staked back then was holy ground. The leap of faith I took was in God’s character being ruled by love, and indeed He did not abandon me. He continued to speak and lead… even moreso than before.
I am still desperate as ever for the voice of God in my life, His leading, and studying the scriptures as diligently as before. Yet I cannot stay silent any longer on this, because I know that the lives of many hang in the balance. The burden of so many LGBTQ people leaving the church and walking away from God – never even once hearing that they too are created in God’s image, called to glory and also worthy of healing and restoration, weighs heavy on my heart.
I have much more to say, and so my next few posts will be on a similar subject. To my friends in the conservative camp, I know this path I am on may be too hard for you to hear right now, but please do not put your hands up and push me away. I am asking that you listen, for the sake of love. Do your own research, ask questions and listen to stories. When someone from the LGBTQ community becomes a friend, it’s no longer an “issue”, but a brother or sister with the same desperate need for a savior.
Til next time —