A while back, I wrote a post about a huge deconstruction of faith that I endured. It was a trying time. It was intense. It was emotionally, spiritually, and mentally draining for a long time. Then I just kinda stopped talking about it so much, save for the few mentions on my blog posts about spiritually related topics.
I’ve had people ask me what happened after, and what direction I took spiritually and emotionally. So I decided to write about it. This will be a sort of update to document my journey.
Let’s start by going back to the days and months after my deconstruction had run its course. Before the dust had settled.
I wasn’t really sure what to believe. I didn’t know if I believed in God. Or if I did believe in God, I wasn’t sure what God looked like anymore. So many people had been wrong about God, so who’s to say that anyone is right?
That was my logic.
Honestly I think that’s pretty sound logic. How can you believe any presumed facts about something so many people seemed to have gotten so wrong, and then claim that anyone would have the facts right when discussing something as intangible as “God”.
This sent me into a downward spiral spiritually. Suddenly morality was in question. What was deemed right and wrong were becoming more and more relative. I felt myself being pulled strongly towards my selfishness. My skepticism had become cynicism, then it took a turn towards nihilism.
To feel like everything is meaningless is a really dark and empty place to exist. At that point, I guess I understood the basic concept of YOLO. If nothing matters, eternity is a joke, religious people are stupid, and life is only as significant as the purpose you attribute to it, then the only thing that can matter is what you can get out of life. I lived in this place for a while and made regrettable decisions. I was angry at God, even angrier at all Christians, and began to fully realize the depth of the spiritual damage I had endured over the years.
Admitting There’s A Problem
When one goes to a substance abuse rehabilitation facility, the first thing they have to do is admit they have a problem. You can’t begin the journey towards healing and true rehabilitation until this step has occurred.
I had let my wounds fester for years before finally acknowledging there was a real problem within me. I remember the moment it finally sunk in. I was playing a show in Birmingham, sharing the stage with some friends who had invited me along to play before them. They are more of a “Christian music” duo. While one of them was sharing a bit about a story, they were talking about God a lot. I realized I was having such a negative physical reaction that I just wanted to go outside. I was getting intensely nauseated and repulsed by every word that came out of their mouth when addressing how their faith had influenced their song. When I said this out loud later on, someone told me that was not normal, and that I may be suffering from a type of PTSD. That was the first moment I realized that maybe everything I felt about spirituality, religion, and God was not because I was a cynical nihilistic person, but rather because I was suffering from a very deep emotional trauma that had never been addressed. So I finally admitted to myself that I had a problem, and that problem was going to have to be dealt with.
Once I started treating this as trauma, rather than a condition I was identifying with, then it was clear that it wasn’t natural, and I began being able to separate myself from the trauma, and begin finding my identity in other things. But the question now was; what should I identify with?
I knew I couldn’t go back. I knew I couldn’t just go to church, or really even believe in something as audacious, blasphemous, disrespectful, and painfully inaccurate as “Church”. So I needed to find something else.
When I started really reflecting, I realized that I wanted my life to mean something. I didn’t want to be the cold, distant, somewhat sociopathic person I had always been. I didn’t want to wear a mask, and pretend to be someone I’m not, or hide who I am to the world. But I also didn’t want to be negative, introverted, and uncomfortable around people anymore. So I started making changes on a daily basis. At first they were mostly mental changes; just trying to change the way I saw the world and the people around me. I started finding small ways to connect with strangers. I went out of my way to help people, whether holding the door open, helping someone with their groceries, or feeding that homeless guy I used to ignore and cynically accuse of just wanting money for crack (which is still probably true, so I gave him food and clothes instead.)
This wasn’t to build up my pride, or show the world how “good” I am. It was because I genuinely needed to be reminded what kindness looked like, and because I was desperate to feel connected to people in ways that actually mattered. I wanted to effect the world around me positively.
It was in these acts of kindness and this mind-altering process that I discovered just how truly passionate I am about human equality. I began to open my eyes to the injustice in the world, and the people who deserve not just our attention, but also our presence, love, and support in their efforts to fight for their right to live like everyone else.
During this time, I found myself seeing “Jesus” in the world again. I put that in quotations because obviously I didn’t literally see Jesus. Let’s not get ridiculous. But for the first time in my whole life, I felt like I understood God in a way I never had before. It was like I caught a glimpse of the world the way God sees it, and began to love people the way God does. And it all started to make a little more sense to me.
One day I was listening to an episode of The Liturgists Podcast where they were interviewing a guy named Richard Rohr. This guy is a Franciscan Fryar, ordained in the Roman Catholic Church, who is also a self-proclaimed mystic. Needless to say, he’s a pretty interesting guy.
It had been a long time since I had considered mysticism as something worth entertaining. But after I listened to him talk about God from the perspective of mysticism, it was like the awe, mystery, and magic of God came back a little. It was like waking up.
A Life Reconstructed
I’m beginning to find a place in my life where my passion for fighting injustice, a longing for mysticism, and my intense destain for all things fundamentalist can all co-exist to create a new form of spirituality in my life. I’m not really sure where this leads. But I’ve learned that what doesn’t matter are church services, church dress code, church denominations, arbitrary standards set by church people, and especially people who say they know God better than you do, or are somehow closer to God than you are.
“Faith” is still a bit of an allusive word to me. I’m not sure what to do with it. I’m not fully sure what to do with God for that matter. Half of me completely accepts the more plausible reality that God is this thing, this presence that is interwoven throughout the fabric of all that is, holding it all together. But then the other half of me also can’t seem to deny this deep seated notion that God is also something I can have a relationship with. Though I genuinely don’t know what that relationship really looks like, I still can’t deny it.
I think my over all belief system has taken a more logical turn in some ways, while choosing to believe in the unbelievable, to an extent.
So for what it’s worth, here is a basic overview of where I have landed in my beliefs and faith thus far:
- I can accept this person called Jesus. That He is who he says He is. But because of this fact, I also think this should radically revolutionize the way we love ourselves and the world. If Jesus really is who He says He is, we should be compelled to love all people for who they are, be willing to give anything we have away to those in need, feed hungry people, clothe the naked, and be willing to get down in the dirt with people who know nothing else. Because we are all ultimately in the dirt anyway. No one person is better than the other. Jesus understood that. He didn’t hate those who thought they were better, He just fought for those who were made lesser. I like that.
- I can accept that God is a real force and being in the universe that is beyond what we can ever really understand. He/She/It set it all into motion, holds it all together, and will be there when it all comes to an end. Through God all things exist.
- I can accept the Bible as a book that is mixed with historical accounts retold through the eyes of a third party who also may not have fully understood what was happening, but did the best they could to recount all that happened and what was important. It is also full of poems, dreams, and stories written with imagination, where creative liberties were taken to describe a difficult and often beautiful picture that feeds into a greater story. The Bible is filled with wisdom passed down from generation to generation to help a lost people find their way.
- On that note, I also believe the Bible is one of, if not the most complex piece of literature in human history. Its words are fully dependent on being culturally, historically, and contextually interpreted through the lenses of original text, original language, and other nuances like cultural standards and limited understanding. This is why I do not accept the opinion of those who “read the Bible literally” today. It may sound harsh, but if you read the Bible in a literal way in its current state which has been translated countless times based on language, cultural context, and limited understanding, then you probably aren’t understanding what it is actually saying. So please stop making assumptions and creating entire belief systems based on what you think it says. You’re probably wrong. Most of us are. Its wise not to forget that a bunch of religious and political leaders got together in Nicea to argue and debate and ultimately decide what was “Biblical” as we know it. They threw out writings, and they included other writings. The Bible isn’t some complete work that was handed down on a mountain. It is a collection of writings and letters that were curated by the congress of that day. It helps put things into perspective to remember this, I think.
- I accept that “the greatest of these is love” was not said by accident. I want my life to echo this sentiment. I want to love well. If I can do this, I think a lot of that other stuff falls into place. This includes love extended to all races, nationalities, genders, and people of all backgrounds and lifestyles. Period. I choose to love not based on any qualification accept that we are human, and we are created beautifully and worthy of the best love this world has to offer.
I think now I’m starting to see that I have really fallen in love with learning someone’s story, rather than judging who I think they ought to be. I’m certainly in no place to judge anyone for anything. But I find that it’s in the nooks and crannies of a person’s story that you might fall in love with them too.
I used to be pretty heartless. I used to be mean, cold, distant, introverted, unreadable, emotionless, and basically a complete asshole. Now I find that I care about people more than I ever thought I could. I get emotional over the smallest things ENTIRELY too much, I so easily get lost in moments with people I love (and I love that), and I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.
So I guess ultimately this reconstruction is going pretty well. It feels really good to tell people they don’t have to worry about me anymore..and mean it.