Spiritual Reflections

Losing My Religion

I am, by all accounts a woman filled with words. I don’t remember many events in my life where I didn’t have an abundance of them swirling around my brain at all times. I know what you’re thinking if this isn’t how you’re wired. YES! It’s absolutely exhausting. But it’s all I’ve ever known. Writing, creating and forming ideas is so closely interwoven into my DNA, that I truly believe when I’m writing, singing and creating—those are the moments when I can tell that I am doing what God created me to do. I mean, I feel it in my bones.

Do you have something you do, and when you are doing it you just get passionate, focused, and tingly all over? I feel the most alive when I’m writing and singing. God himself is a creator and, on this earth, was a man full of words and ideas. It’s what I first think of when I read this scripture:

God spoke:

“Let us make human beings in our image, make them
        reflecting our nature
    So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea,
        the birds in the air, the cattle,
    And, yes, Earth itself,
        and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”
    God created human beings;
        he created them godlike,
    Reflecting God’s nature.” Genesis 1:27 (MSG) 

When I read that, it takes my breath away a little bit. We are created in the image of God. And did you catch it? The second word… US. “Let US make human beings in OUR image, reflecting OUR nature.” We are made in the likeness of the Triune GOD and with that comes all of God’s (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) qualities that connect us to our creator. I believe it’s why I yearn to create, to write, to love, to enjoy creation… and God said all of this is good.

However, recently I was a part of an experience that left me totally and utterly word-less. I was completely transformed spiritually from the inside out—and the craziest part was that for several days afterward, there was just blank space in my head. My heart was so full that I was continually weeping when I would think of the experience. Words escaped me. I had nothing to say, nothing to add, and nothing to share about the event because it was just too sacred and holy to even try and attach my own words to. Anytime I would try to express what transpired, my words seemed hollow. I truly felt that I had been in the thin space between heaven and earth for the entire weekend.

I realized today that my lack of writing about it is because there are just not many words in this world for what I saw, heard, and felt. There are certain thoughts or feelings that we do not have adequate words for on this earth.

To put it simply, words aren’t always enough.

And for a writer, after experiencing something that glorious and not having any words for it was like not getting any toppings on your FroYo. It’s just wrong.

I slowly learned that God wanted me to just rest in the moment, rest in the words that were poured over me. To absorb… drink… absorb… and really taste all of it. I began to rest in the moment and stopped trying to attach my own thoughts and words to what I had learned so that I could understand more fully what it was that my heart needed to say.

And now my heart needs to say it: I am losing my religion…  [Cue R.E.M.]

In the last few years, I unknowingly started on the path of deconstructing my faith. Well, that’s not really true. I think my heart and mind began slowly sloughing off many things that were never meant to be a part of faith in the first place. I already knew it deep down—I had been given many signs along the way—but sometimes it takes something almost catastrophic to provoke the heart and brain to catch up to a soul shift. 

My deconstruction initially began as a consequence of hypocrisy and pain that I witnessed and experienced within the church, which just happened to coincide in timing quite a bit to what I call a “political awakening” before the 2016 presidential election. Even though I have always considered myself as being self-aware and discerning, I was completely and totally blindsided by the droves of evangelical Christians that so easily overlooked everything that they had once said they loathed in some Democratic leaders, simply because the current candidate identified as a Republican. After each campaign speech, I would hear his hateful rhetoric, how he spewed venom at the “others,” how he incited violence and demeaned women or people of color at his rallies, and ridiculed anyone who spoke truth.

And yet almost every single Christian around me was voting for this man—but not just voting for him, they were actually excited about voting for him. I was literally dumbfounded. I thought that surely I wasn’t the only one who was feeling the weight of the abrupt hypocrisy and disgust of placing political party above faith. But every time I would go on social media, the alarming consensus was reinforced and perpetuated by posts and outright hateful meme’s over and over again. Because I assumed others had an inkling into my emotions surrounding all of this, I inadvertently caused a rift within my family and some friends because when I would question their motives, the response was not only defensive but downright hostile and I was told that I was the one who was crazy and this was going to make America great. I just needed to get on board.

But I couldn’t get on board and I didn’t. Everything in me said this was not right. It was against everything my faith had taught me. So how could so many Christians celebrate this man who mocked the disabled, had multiple affairs, and openly boasted that he didn’t pray at all and is quoted as saying, “Why do I have to repent, why do I have to ask for forgiveness if I’m not making mistakes?” I get that the President isn’t our pastor, not who we worship, yada yada. But in the past, if a Democrat had run for President and had been this way, he would have been despised and ridiculed by Republicans. The hypocrisy and blatant misuse of God’s word to somehow try and persuade other Christians to vote for him literally made me sick.

I went into a deep, dark depression for months and to be honest, I’m barely staying above shoulder height waves of that same depression years later. It engulfed me. For the very first time in my life I questioned if I even believed that there was a God. It was unfamiliar territory, yet it felt necessary and needed. For the first time in my life, I was thinking about things I had subconsciously been ignoring for most of my adult life. I questioned why I believed what I believed in a new and profound way.

It was during this time that a friend, [who was also on the path of deconstructing faith] invited me to join her and a few other wounded warrior seekers to a conference called Evolving Faith. I read about it, recognized only four of the speakers names of the many on the list, and without hesitation I bought a ticket and told my friend that I was “in.” Which, I should mention, is extremely uncharacteristic of me. I take 30 minutes at the grocery store just to choose my produce, so this spontaneous move was probably baffling to my husband. But something stirred inside me and I just had an overwhelming need to go, so I did.

 

Near the end of the conference, I watched a man with tears in his eyes, cry out his anger at the church for kicking him out of it when he needed it the most, simply because of sexuality. He hadn’t been able to take part in communion for years and I witnessed that same man later taking communion from a gay pastor who prayed over him, speaking words his soul had longed to hear for so many years, “You are welcome at the table. You belong. You are his child. He died for you, here is his blood spilled out for you, his body that was broken for you. YOU ARE LOVED. You are his.” And I wept and wept. The tears wouldn’t stop flowing because I saw Jesus in that moment. I saw Jesus in the pastor. I saw Jesus in the man taking his first communion, his first taste of Jesus in far too long… because of what? Our need to put boundaries around love? Our human idea of what sin is and what it is not and what sin is worse than another sin? Our desire to control and manipulate a system that was never meant to be manipulated has caused more pain and suffering than all the wars in the world combined. The worst part is that we did this to ourselves. Long ago, we decided who stays on the margins and who gets to love Jesus. Human pride created our religious construct that gave too much power to denominations and not enough to Jesus.

We created this construct of denominations and rules and formalities, but with all of that also comes religiosity, piousness, and pride in the idea of certainty. Who are we that think we can tame God with our manmade ideas of how He can and cannot work, what He is and is not capable of doing, and who is and is not worth saving? What we know of God we made into a graven idol, chewed it up, digested it, changed it to fit inside our shape, and spewed it out as a venomous formula that all humans must also eat, lest they be damned.

God says he created us in his image and yet throughout generations and ages, we have created God to be like us.

Love God. Love your neighbor. That is it. We added the rest. A man longed desperately for Jesus and just wanted to come to the table. God’s grace is for us ALL. No one is excluded from that grace, from His love, from Jesus. All of us came together that weekend as leaders, teachers, seekers, worshippers, and spiritual vagabonds looking for our shelter, looking for God. We were all war-wounded, full of battle scars and open sores, trudging through the crowds of people with a heavy weariness in our eyes—but a flicker of hope came tumbling out of every mouth as we lifted voices in praise because deep down we know that injustice, death, and destruction will not get the final word. It will not have the last laugh.

What I witnessed confirmed everything I had been wrestling with for the last several years. I found my people. I found hope. Everything else was stripped away, and that is when the light was finally able to filter it’s way through. “It’s just Jesus,” I breathed during communion.

In that single moment, my deconstruction found a place to rebuild. 

It’s just Jesus. We constructed all of the rest—the denominations, the politics, the struggle between “us” and “them,” religion, and how we think we can decide who is in and who is out. Humans did all of this, and Jesus isn’t found in any of it. We have tried so hard to make things fit into a black and white construct, but the world is filled with so much grey, grey, grey. It is a broken world. This is not the world God had originally planned for creation, so there are things beyond our understanding, beyond our grasp, and beyond the realms of our religious constructions, but not beyond Jesus.

I’m still wrestling and absorbing some of the things I learned that cold, rainy weekend in October in a drafty, old building in Montreat, North Carolina. But it gave me confirmation that I am headed in the right direction. I lost my religion and the trappings of what man has made out of God, but I found Jesus and my soul clings to him with a renewed desperation and a new found grace.



4 thoughts on “Losing My Religion

  1. DeAnn, I am currently bawling my eyes out as I read your blog post. As a fellow Sojourner in this deconstruction and second conversion of faith, I can so identify with you. I even considered going to the same conference to see Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, etc. (Thankfully, I got to see Jen Hatmaker here in St. Louis.)
    Please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. In fact, there are several of us from the same church you used to attend that are in the exact same place! We are learning that it is about Jesus and loving him and others PERIOD.
    I would love to find a church of Misfits and deconstructed faiths too. If you find one (or start one with your amazing husband, I give you permission to contact me.
    Big thanks to you for sharing your heart and your words! Thankful for you and your amazing family.

    1. You don’t know what your words and the words echoed by so many friends and acquaintances are doing for my soul right now. It really does feel like a lonely place to be, but I truly believe that God is stirring this up for us intentionally. We are losing the scales over our eyes. It’s beautiful but it’s disruptive… as are so many things Jesus has his hands on. There’s so much to process. And maybe we do need to create a group of fellow deconstruction sojourners! I love love love that idea!! We need to get together soon!

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