“Deconstruction = a method of critical analysis of philosophical and literary language which emphasizes the internal workings of language and conceptual systems, the relational quality of meaning, and the assumptions implicit in forms of expression.”
10 years ago, I was an over-seas mission-trip going, purity ring wearing, bible to college classes kind of Christian. I led bible studies weekly in my home. I loved the bible, Jesus, my church and envisioned myself being a woman pastor of sorts, in a church that allowed women pastors of course.
I was not raised a Christian. I chose Christianity for myself as a teenager and dove deep into the grace and love of Jesus. I was born-again, spirit filled, and on fire.
I got married as a Christian, which meant when it started to fall apart, I had deconstruct my faith alongside my husband, which was really hard. It uprooted everything our marriage was founded upon. I think in my community, I would have been one of the least likely people to “fall away” so it came as a surprise for many of my friends and family when I did.
How did it begin?—
It started slow and I was in denial of it… The best way I know how to describe it is that something felt “off” at church.
A sense of not belonging? A sense of violation? A sense of not being allowed to live in my gifts or personality. I started noticing how often people were called out. I saw one of my friends leave the church for being gay after church discipline was practiced on him. Another friend asked to step down from leadership because she was having sex. But at the time, none of these things consciously bothered me. They were just the truth. Aligned with the bible. Facts.
I thought the “off” feeling was just my legalistic church, so I switched churches and felt great for a while! But it wasn’t long until the mega-church we were attending in Springfield, Missouri boldly opposed transgender rights, and even protested equality laws. That was the last day we went there.
Shortly after we found an amazing house church with people who believed in therapy, (WIN!) who were open to discussions of doubt and who drank, and didn’t shame people. It was people doing life together! FINALLY. I found my people.
But my internal process had only begun.
During this season I began to go to trauma therapy with a christian counselor/energy healer and within 6 months, I felt completely different. Freer. More me. And all of sudden, I didn’t connect with my faith, or Jesus… at all.
THE HEALTHIER I BECAME, THE LESS THE DOGMA WORKED FOR ME. I confessed my doubts. Talked to mentors. I fasted and prayed. But I struggled to connect to the divine like I “should” and I was fearful.
I started my life coach training around this time and began to chat with people from all over the world with so many different backgrounds. It became clear this guiding light Christians claimed was “holy spirit” was within everyone I talked to. These were some of the most christ-like people I’d ever met.
It cracked me open. I started having lunch with people who were atheists, who were gay, who were Wiccan, who were non-religious and asking them questions. Across the board, all of these people had the same guiding light, and the same needs: to belong and be seen and accepted for the person they really were.
It seemed through that period, the more I started loving on people without a motive to save them, just to relate and know them, the more questions I had about the bible.
I KNEW the bible. Really well. And this newfound space to be curious prompted me to ask questions that were only met with circular reasoning within my circle of friends. Questions about evolution, homosexuality, sex before marriage, our obvious biology and sexual drives, biblical contradictions, contradictions between biblical scholars. And the one thing that tripped me up the most: That a cognitive belief can really “save you.”
Who has access to cognitive belief, anyway? Which IQ levels permit belief in God? The stats on this were not promising.
It seemed to me that only people with the right sexual orientation, culture, IQ, fortunate enough to know and be raised around THE RIGHT christian beliefs could get in?
THE FOCUS ON BEING “RIGHT” WAS EXHAUSTING.
I didn’t feel like I needed clear answers, but the questions alone were enough to make me a problem in Christian circles.
THE NEED FOR ALL MY RELATIONSHIPS TO BE BASED ON SHARED IDEAS THAT HAD NO ROOM TO EVOLVE AND CHANGE MEANT I COULD NOT EVOLVE AND CHANGE.
And change I was. So If I wanted to honor the truth of my experience, I had to honor the questions and make room for the answers to be honest, not just what I wanted them to be.
I describe letting go of these beliefs as a death because truly, my entire identity and all my relationships had to change when I let it go. My marriage, all my friendships, even my work. All of it.
Even if I was invited to a bible study… should I go? Would my truth (which was more questions than truth) be welcome? Would people see me as a disruption? Would I even want to go?
So much grief. I felt really lonely. Really misunderstood.
Holding all the mess and the questions was so challenging. I felt lost. Insecure. Like a fraud. Like who I was as a person could not be trusted if I didn’t have the answers. I had questions and questions about my questions. I was absolutely consumed with the topic too. I was researching basically every day looking for answers and hearing different perspectives.
HOW I NAVIGATED THE CHANGES IN COMMUNITY AND MYSELF:
In the midst of it, I hired a coach to hold space for me and support me through this season. I knew I needed unbiased support. It was the healthiest thing I could have ever done because unlike my friends, counselor and mentor, she did not need me to be anything but honest.
If I could boil it down, questions and honest answers are what began my deconstruction, and are the same things that built me up again.
After there was nothing left but void, I had to actually do some healing work. Because once I officially left, I started to see the power dynamics and systems of oppression within the American church I hadn’t seen while I was knee deep within it.
I hadn’t seen how being so deep in the system made me hate pieces of myself. Hate my body, my sexuality, my personality. I hadn’t seen how I had internalized shame, how the belief that my "best” was nothing but “filthy rags” (period stained pads, biblically) to God. I hadn’t seen how women were not only unclean in the tradition, but feared and kept small. I hadn’t seen the codependent cycles I was in, the gaslighting masked as “loving guidance” and manipulation keeping me from trusting myself. The ways I’d been called out for sin that was nothing but a response to unhealed trauma.
I realized that my humanity was not ever going to be truly welcome in the system.
I realized I’d been trained not to think or feel for myself.
I realized that I’d been a part of the problem.
That’s when I got angry.
I had to really sit with my anger, and trauma both from being in the church, and my experience leaving. I’ve been actively healing in this area for about 2 years… letting go of pain and literally reprogramming my brain and nervous system to new stories and embodying relational safety.
I had to actively heal. Actively reprogram my brain and claim my worth. And I did. I leaned the fuck IN.
Did I lose relationships? Some, yes. But I gained so much more. Self trust. Wholeness. Aliveness. Belief in my ability to be with hard things. The ability to set boundaries and see toxic spiritual behavior. The power and capacity to know myself deeply, and trust what I find. I gained friends and mentors and a new, awakened understanding of the world.
In reflection, this deconstruction catapulted me into the deep work I am able to do with the women in my programs now. I can be with hard things, liminal space, the unknown, and still have peace.