The trendy term for this is "deconstructing my faith".
I want you to know - I do not care one whit about "trendy".
Names, terms, clothes, or anything else.
What I need in my life is SUBSTANCE.
This is me breaking down into parts, for analysis, deciding what to keep, and what to let go - teachings thru the years, and the way I have lived my life . . .
Dissecting. Decoding. Unraveling. Disentangling. Interpreting. Investigating. Scrutinizing. Studying.
All these are much better words in my opinion than “deconstructing”.
I am becoming more convinced of this one fact:
This is not ever going to be finished.
This has become my new way of life,
My Quest for Substance:
My beliefs have changed.
And should they not?
Life has changed.
I have learned, I have grown, I have changed.
My world has shattered in the last 10 years, more than once.
So why should my Faith, my whole belief system, remain unchanged?
There came a point in my life when I realized that the faith I had, wasn't enough, and no, it just didn't add up to good sound reasoning deep within my soul.
I found that I could no longer believe the same things, in the same ways.
I’ve been breaking down into parts, some larger than others, some very minute parts, the faith and teachings that have been taught to me thru the years.
And that I have taught to others as well.
I realize now, in looking back over the last 10 years of my life, that this has been a work in progress.
I just didn't formulate the words, the thoughts.
Like I am doing now.
This is in NO way intended to be "going with the flow" or "trending".
It is not an easy task, and honestly?
It was not one that I chose.
Nor would I have willingly chosen this.
However, now that I am on this quest for substance, I hope I am never “finished”.
But always growing – from Faith to Faith.
To use (as a reference point) the "trendy" wording:
The meaning of deconstruction:
A systematic pulling apart of the belief system you were raised in.
This typically happens when one has questions/doubts about their faith that go unanswered. Eventually those issues force themselves to the surface and must be dealt with, sometimes brought on by an event in your life that the faith of your childhood didn’t prepare you for (death, loss, difficult season).
I did not realize this was what was happening to me, even before Rick died.
Only in looking back, can I see the evolution of this process.
I think it was in sometime in 2012 that my faith began to crumble and disintegrate.
Nothing was adding up correctly.
Rick had been diagnosed with "Acute Kidney Disease, with Renal Failure" - heavy emphasis, in his mind at least, on the word FAILURE.
I had been diagnosed with uterine cancer, after years of horrendous periods that left me often too weak to even walk across the room.
Emotions and thoughts had me confused, and feeling very guilty for even questioning God, the Bible, my faith.
There were conversations that turned to arguments, as well as arguments that led into deep conversations - with Rick, with myself, and with God. Only on rare occasions did I allow conversations about all this with others - not for lack of wanting and needing those conversations. But due to judgments and condemnations from those that I did trust.
There were moments in those last months that I found myself scared to even close my eyes – I just knew that God was going to strike me dead while I slept, and I would not be here for & with Rick . . . just because I had questioned Him.
As Rick’s health, and mine, had taken down-turns, the questions began.
As my health seemed to improve (at least to a point), but Rick’s became worse – the questions increased.
As I saw family and friends (not all, but more than we were prepared for) turn away from us –
As we were not surrounded by them, or by the church (as a whole) –
The questions became more intense.
I was still giving all the right answers to those who cared enough to ask me, or talk with me.
But deep inside there was a growing scream -
"THIS IS NOT WORKING! THIS IS NOT ENOUGH!"
In those last months of Rick’s life, we had a LOT of conversations about the Bible, the goodness of God, what was sin and what was not – in our perspectives.
Questions about heaven and hell – both here on earth, and after death.
What the purpose of the individual Christian is, as well as what the purpose of the church, as a whole, is.
What it meant to pray – are we looking at God as a type of “Santa Clause in the sky”, where we expect to have at least some of our requests granted?
Or do we even ask for anything – if God is God, then isn’t He going to do whatever HE wants to do regardless of what we do or don’t pray?
After Rick died, the questions became a lot more, shall I say “heated”?
I was scared.
I was angry.
Except for my kids and grandkids – I really didn’t care whether I lived or died.
To live was ok, to die was ok - because neither was a good answer.
I screamed at God, and at my dead husband.
I cried out in fear, in anger, in a total exhaustion.
And then, I just stopped.
No more prayers.
No more crying out for answers.
I was empty.
More empty than I had ever been in my life.
In the beginning of our questioning – we, and I, wanted to know why we/I believed,
what we/I believed,
and if we/I were to continue with those beliefs
- then we must have our actions based in and from those beliefs.
And certainly nothing else.
There was also fear.
After all, we had both been taught to never question God.
God said it, and that settles it.
There was a part of us that had this image of God sitting as a tyrant, just waiting to whip our butts if we questioned Him.
Rick struggled greatly those last 4 months.
With questions but no answers – I couldn’t seem to help, because I had too many questions myself.
He fought not only the pain and discomfort of failing health, but the guilt he carried as a Christian. Having been youth minister, teacher, deacon, and pastor thru the years only added to his guilt.
He felt like he was the last person that should be struggling with these faith questions.
He grappled with the all consuming question of, “I should know these answers!”
No one knew his struggles, the nights he sat up reading his Bible, crying out to God - no one but me.
I saw the tears, wiped many of them from his face.
I listened to the anguish in his voice as he tried to find his way thru this gaping black hole of Faith.
And with every dark night that passed, I felt more and more helpless, empty, and just crying without words.
As Rick’s health declined, and death came closer – we found ourselves in the begging and pleading stage.
That we would say anything, do anything, believe whatever HE wanted us to believe – just for more time together.
And then, when that moment of death happened, despite all our tears, prayers, and pleadings
. . .my faith, what little that was left,
– shattered, crumbled and I was left with nothing more than an ash heap of memories.
Looking back, I know that 14 hours before Rick took his last breath, I gave him the rest of me, the last vestige of my faith up to then.
He was sitting on the potty, too weak to sit there without help.
I was in front of him, waiting to see what he needed.
His head was bowed down, chin resting on his chest.
I thought at first he had fallen asleep.
Slowly, he raised his head, tears were streaming down his face.
I brushed the tears away with alarm and fear, while struggling to keep my voice calm and my mind collected.
I asked him what was wrong?
If he was hurting anywhere?
He looked into my eyes, deep into what felt like the very bottom of my soul – and said, “I’m scared.”
Alarm rose in me, and as I tried to swallow it back, I asked him why he was scared.
“What if it hurts to die? I don’t think I can bear any more pain.”
My heart missed a beat.
I know it did.
It happens when it falls to the floor of the soul and breaks into a million pieces.
I wiped more tears away from his face, and with my own tears flowing down, I took his face in mine, and said words from my heart.
Words that I hoped would bring him comfort and peace.
And words that have haunted me ever since.
“Rick, I don’t believe God is like that. You have prayed, you have sought Him so intensely. You are His son, His child. I don’t believe God will allow you to feel any pain in that moment, whenever it happens. I think it will be one breath here, and one breath there. Simple. Easy. NO pain or discomfort at all.”
14 hours later, almost to the second, that’s exactly what happened.
Rick took one last breath here, and he was gone.
My hand was on his chest, I didn’t even know he was gone
– so I have absolute confidence that there was NO pain in that moment for him.
It took me 4 years and 7 months to find my footing of Faith again.
Ever since then, it has been growing different, stronger but different.
Oh so different.
In those 4 years and 7 months of emptiness and darkness, I found myself occasionally praying – but only for others.
I would not, could not, pray for myself.
- I felt very abandoned by God, very neglected by those who called themselves His children.
I would remember Bible verses and Bible stories.
- and I would try to forget what I had been taught, what I had myself taught others.
But I did not pick up my Bible except to move it.
Did not open it to read it.
Songs of faith from the past would come to me, but it was more stabbing and hurtful to think about them than any comfort or strength to me with them.
They were a brutal reminder to me -
"THIS IS NOT ENOUGH! THIS IS NOT WORKING!"
Then, in late November 2019, I picked up my Bible, opened it and began to read once more.
Only this time, it was different.
I was reading it as though it was the ONLY hope of saving my life.
That marked a significant turning point in my life.
There was no “miracle cure” – life didn’t get better the next day.
But slowly, my faith was being rebuilt.
One moment at a time.
One breath at a time.
There have been very few days in these months/years since that November day that I have not read my Bible.
Some days, it is with an emptiness.
I feel nothing.
I get nothing from it.
But I read it anyway.
Some days, there is a “light bulb” moment about something in my life – past, present, or future.
I kinda like those.
In these months/years since that November day, I am learning how to deal with the people in my life.
It’s not easy lessons.
Course the pandemic of Covid struck just a few short months later, and we were all forced into more isolation.
Now that a lot of those restrictions have been lifted, almost all of them – I still find myself more alone than ever before in my life.
As hard as it is to be this alone, I can see where I needed it.
One of those “light bulb” moments that totally changed my faith world
– was when I realized, really realized, that God knew everything.
Past, present, future.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, hidden to Him.
Which is why He told us to come boldly to His Throne of Grace that we might find help in our time of need.
At the time, I was still struggling with how to pray.
Praying a “form” rather than praying my heart and mind.
Thinking that if I didn’t say the right words, at the right time, and in the right way, it was all wasted time – His and mine.
Then, came the moment I read this verse in Hebrews.
Hebrews 4:16 - Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
And I blurted out to God – but HOW can I come boldly to YOU?
Immediately there was the memory of when our kids were little – they would do something wrong, knowing they did wrong. Whether it was to get into the cookie jar, make a mess in the floor, jump in the mud puddle before church, or any number of childhood “wrongs”.
I remember how they might look downcast, or sorrowful, even pouting.
I also remember how that I got on to them, scolded them, and occasionally gave them a swat or two on their backsides for what they had done.
BUT – there were the hugs, the kisses, the clean up times.
I never disowned them.
I never told them to leave my sight and not come back.
I loved them in spite of it all.
And they knew that.
It was then that I realized, I learned it from GOD.
So, I began that morning to come to God boldly.
Not with pride.
But boldly in knowing that He Loved me.
Boldly knowing that He already knew - so I might as well be completely honest with Him - even in the worst of the emotions and thoughts.
Boldly in knowing that He chose me.
Boldly knowing that He understood me completely - so much more completely than I understood myself.
Boldly in confidence knowing that He had never once cast me away from His Presence, and never would.
It was a life changing moment.
To be able to pray honestly.
Because He already knew anyway.
There is more to this story, and I will be sharing my Quest for Substance.
And as I said earlier – I hope, and pray, there always will be MORE.
A growing of faith to faith.
*Credit given to Jeffery Curtis Poor for his wisdom and insight.
He put into words some of the same ideas and concepts that I have been writing about in my journals since November 2019.
Reading his articles have encouraged me to share my story here.
Perhaps my sharing will encourage you to share yours.
A true "paying it forward".