What If: Deconstruction Does Not Require a Rebuild?

In 2002, I began a conscious journey of question asking. At that time, I was not familiar with the term “deconstruction,” but over the last almost 2 decades, that word has come to encompass the more common conversations among many modern progressive leaning Christians. Some have walked away from faith completely. Others have unpacked long held beliefs of theology and yet held onto the roots of the traditions. As this term became more trendy, I have seen some begin to bristle at the idea that what began as a form of rebelling has become quite mainstream. In certain faith circles, a journey of deconstruction is the only entrance ticket.

The interesting part of this journey for me is that I never planned to still be on this road. What began as an attempt to gently unpack understandings that felt stifling and old, has landed me years later in places that I never intended to go. These are arenas that I would have told you, even a few years ago, were beyond my desire and longing. I wrongly assumed that I would explore some messy beliefs and then pack the rest of life in neatly held depositories for open minded exploration. As I’ve discovered, that’s not how it works.

When I gave myself permission to ask the first question, I opened a way of thinking that I could not rebottle. In some ways, I feel like I rubbed a lamp and out popped the magic question asking genie, a genie with unlimited questions. Once I realized that the first question only added depth and richness to the journey of my life, I grew to love the questions. I realized that the unknown was not bad. I came to believe that the beauty of the journey of life was actually more fully known in the doubts and struggles.

As the one in the midst of the deconstructed way of life, I have never felt threatening. I have, however, quickly discovered that my journey makes others very uncomfortable. I will have more words about this particular part of the journey tomorrow, but what I need to say today is that I’m not finished. I’m not even close to being “deconstructed.” So, dear ones that are confused and concerned, hold on tight.

At the very heart of every good question asker is the deep desire to fully engage. When we stop living from the posture of individual containers in a segregated life and intentionally chose to move into integrated and holistic living, we change. Our entire outlook on growth and humanity and spirit and our physical bodies and our mental health begin to align in ways that can be absolutely uncomfortable for those that have chosen to live from multiple bucket. For me, deconstruction has literally wrecked the ability to keep a particular issue, idea or belief in its own compartmentalized thought container. And while this intentional shift has been so life giving, it has disrupted all of the things.

I can no longer see things that were once very right and wrong or black and white as anything but gray. When I apply that to the ways that I have always operated, it causes an immediate shift in priorities. This way of thinking has moved me into spaces of wonderful doubt and loving embracing. It has pushed me to call out injustice and oppression that I would have never acknowledged for fear of displaying spiritually wrong thought. It has even required that I reframe the “biggies” of life like parenting and marriage and friendship. I think it is safe to say that I am (at least) middle aged. At 45, I’m confident that I have lived long enough to have my own experiences and understanding, yet separating from ‘others’ thoughts, and fully embracing the reality that I have the ability to frame my life through my own lens and belief system, is still new ground for me.

What does this mean? Why does this matter? It matters because this is only the beginning. Deconstruction is merely the jumping off point. I like to think that much of my current state of existence is the a mid-air flight of a big fearless leap. Sure, your stomach is in your throat some days. Of course, there is a fear of sticking the landing without over-rotating or belly flopping. These are the very normal life experiences of risk. But what I have found is that the adventure of the decision to jump – the thrill of running to the edge – the moment of bravery that launches your life in a no take-backs kind of way, is simply glorious. There is absolutely no way to stop deconstruction. If I am honest, why would I want to? If deconstruction is an open handed question asking life, I’m here for it. I’m all in for all the things. I’m ready to live the rest of my life asking the questions that wreck the status quo and require me to know MY very own reason for belief and being.

May we sit in the midst of the deconstruction and be completely content that the rebuild is the not the journey.

May we see that the real challenge is not re-construction, but the realization that our world assumes that a structure is needed.

May we enjoy this formless state of contentment, with its warmth and invitation to rest in the unrestricted.

Cheers to the jump, my friends!

What If: Changing My View of Church Impacts My Kids?

I grew up never missing church. Being sick was a reason to be absent, but even travel may include a stop at a local congregation and a bulletin from the church of visitation to take home as an excuse note. Sundays were serious business and there were few exceptions. I honored that same standard in raising my children. While we don’t visit other churches on travel excursions, being in the building on Sunday has been a high value mark throughout my life.

Fifteen years ago, I began an empowering journey of reconstructing what I believed about Church organizations, denominational systems and many aspects of serving and leading the Church. But even in the midst of a huge personal and cultural shift, the value that we as a family placed on the corporate worship gathering was high. It was only as our children began competing in sports that we had a discussion of “skipping” church. Just reflecting on this term choice is telling. What I discovered as I unpacked this language was that in my hardwired system, nothing was more important than the tightly held sanctity of the 10am Sunday hour.

It was only because of the fact that our youngest called me on the carpet about this choice that I began to listen. In a heated discussion about the number of times we were going to miss church for swim meets in a three month period, I argued that some meets were “not as important” as others and that we should choose. In a very unfiltered moment, my 13 year-old twirled around on me and shouted, “Do you want me to hate Jesus for taking away swimming?” I knew the correct response. I knew what my parents and many others would have said to me. But in that moment, the Spirit forced my mouth shut (I don’t do these things on my own) and I did not come back on her with frustration or punishment. But her words weighed on my mind. To this day.

The last year has provided opportunities for me to look at this issue from many directions. There is a huge part of my heart that longs for the same kind of joy and excitement that I found going to church as a small child. I loved Sunday mornings. I don’t recall a fight about going to church growing up. Ever. Perhaps I blocked it out, but it was just what we did – it was like breathing. In different seasons, (you know, like college) there was certainly not the same excitement. But easily and quickly, the Sunday morning experience was shaped in my adulthood. As a full-time church worker, Sundays were the fullest of days. It was only as we moved into different seasons of church planting that my schedule and Sunday demands morphed. But it was Ally’s pushback last year that stopped me. Could I really damage her willingness to interact and engage with the Divine with my attempts to get her to church? Can I get oh, hell yeah?

While unpacking her feelings about Sunday worship, I required myself to hear her. This is her story: she knows Spirit. She has clear and regular encounters with her Creator. Unlike what I have always practiced and preached, she does not have these encounters with God in a certain room, with a certain speaker or for certain songs. For her, she knows connection when her head is immersed in water. She understands prayer and intention from the moments that she and God are the only ones behind the blocks as she prepares to race. She has developed a deep since of trust in her body and internal voice as she has navigated success and failure, pain and injury, love and disappointment. More than any sermon or corporate prayer time, my daughter has a deep spiritual connection to her entire rhythm of life. It was only when I quit fighting to put my liquid fueled offspring into a landlocked creation of the Divine encounter that I freed her to find her own path. Just tonight, she came into my room and I read her the previous two paragraphs. I asked her if I captured this correctly. Her smile said it all. “You got it, Mom.”

My kids are impacted. They are also some of my best teachers. My kids have opened my eyes to see the better and more true ways of experiencing God. As with most of my goals in parenting, I feel like my aim in all things Church is to get out of the way and trust that just as God shapes and molds me, God is teaching and opening my kids to the same revelation. More important than me telling them what to do or how to do it, I hope that I can teach them how to reason and listen and trust their Knowing to find answers for themselves.

What If: The Responsibility for My Spiritual Connection Was On Me?

To begin this post, I need to give a bit of groundwork. The heart of this question came from a conversation that I shared with a friend months ago. We were discussing the framework by which we are finding spiritual connection and the heartbeat of the conversation shifted to our personal responsibility for that journey. The more we talked, the more clearly I began to see the reality of the American Church.

I have accepted the consumer mentality of church attendance for years. I have fought it with all of my church leading ability, but for the past 30 years the pattern of participation in the life of the church has significantly morphed to a ‘what can you do for me?’ mindset. In seasons of personal frustration, I have fought against this current. But years ago, I gave up fighting. I have pressed into personal internal work and trusted that those that were ready for this track would join me, appealing program or not. I have thought less about target audiences and attention seeking models and more about if this is what I need, maybe someone else will see it as valuable. This is great for many, and off-putting for so many others. It is a shift. No longer am I catering to what is convenient. Instead I am focused on calling others to own their own journey.

This does a few things. First, it makes it look like you don’t “care” about people. This is anti-pastoral. Secondly, it can come off as elitist or closed off. I can assure you that is not my intent. Instead, I think asking people to own their own journey is actually quite open. More open, in fact, than anything that I have been a part of in the discipleship journeys or Bible studies of the past. Finally, this shift puts the responsibility on the participant. And guess what? People don’t like responsibility. It is heavy. It demands work. Especially in the spiritual journey. It requires looking for yourself at the things that you cannot embrace or own. When you are no longer spoon fed “truth” or a particular belief system, and instead are forced to decide if you care or value these things at all, the hard choices begin to appear. You have to own it. For yourself. And hot damn, that seems real and true in ways that are anything but consumeristic.

I want to talk to my friends that are sitting on this fence. The ones that know that they don’t fit in the system but just can’t imagine what it looks like to think about owning (really owning) their faith. The ones that do the things because you are supposed to. The ones that answer the questions the way that others want you to because it is just easier than disturbing the calm of status quo. To tell someone that you are changing the way that things have always been done or believed or participated in or accepted is terrifying. Especially when it comes to owning your faith. So much of our system of organization in the Church has pre-determined eternal outcomes and perceived truth. But, I need to let you in on a secret. THAT IS A LIE.

If you own your faith in a way that calls you to walk away,

If you find that you don’t believe what you once did,

If you listen, really listen, and find that your soul tells a different story today,

You will be ok. I am ok. I am here to be a witness, you will live on the other side.

And what if, the story on this side is a more beautiful, free, freeing, melodic, harmonizing, trusting truth than you could have ever dreamed? That’s what owning your spiritual journey looks like. When you find that the handcuffs are removed and you are finally free to reach for the most loving and generous parts of your own soul, you realize that is the very space that Creation and Healing is the most alive.

The single greatest thing that has kept me from this part of my own journey is that I have bought the shame based lies that I was not capable of being trusted. I had deeply embedded belief grooves that held my heart hostage that my “sinful” nature was not able to be barometer of goo. Instead, I needed to rely on the smarter, more studied, more spiritual people to do this heavy lifting for me. My job was simply to digest their truth and to participate in the prescribed path of connection. By doing the correct activities and following the path, I would find soul contentment. Well, guess what? That didn’t happen.

But when I allowed myself to do some guilt free breathing. When I took a long deep, open, full-lung breath of what felt warm and welcome and ME, something happened. I didn’t feel like I was breathing a tank of artificial air. There was no life support needed. Because, I had the capacity to do this all along. My Creator wired me to listen and hear and discern. The very stillness of Sprit that I have possessed from birth was absolutely sufficient. It was my inability to trust myself, my unwillingness to flex the muscles of exploration for fear of non-conformity that paralyzed me all along. I have a new tool kit these days. In includes intention setting, meditation, prayer, listening, study, reading, trusting others to speak Divine inspiration to me and most importantly reflecting on what the Teacher is telling me through listening to my own spirit. This beautiful reconstruction journey is wonderfully mysterious and wildly freeing.

What If: I Can’t Ever Go Back to Church?

I have seen very few of my people over the last two months. Prior to the mid-March Stay at Home order, I would have told you that I am an introvert and really did not need to be around people. For the most part, this season has solidified this feeling. I have confirmed, however, that there is a distinct difference between people and MY people. I need my people. Like water and oxygen, I need my people. After almost 60 days of distance, I saw two of my closest in a socially distanced, no-contact, outside meet up last weekend. We drove in separate cars, met at a time that there wouldn’t be a crowd, collected our own coffee and sat (maybe not all 6′) feet apart while we talked. For hours. It was absolutely glorious. It was so wonderful that I actually had to force myself not to hug them – which, for the record, I’m not sure that I have ever hugged either one – but I did not because you know I’m not a hugger. But, for real, I need my people.

I met both of these friends in the circle of my religious life. I can honestly say that our paths may have not crossed otherwise. On the surface, we have very little in common. But there is a level of honestly that we have established that is safe. We speak to each other with all the passions of f’s and sh’s. We hold tightly to the belief that there is safe space. Even when I don’t think we intend to, we walk into conversations and suddenly find ourselves neck deep in what most consider controversial territory. It’s glorious, but not very churchy. Not very churchy, at all.

As we sat together this weekend, I confessed that I don’t know what to do with my current feelings of apathy about missing weekly gathering times. This led to a fascinating conversation about where we each were pressing into and working to find community. Our paths are very different, but we all come from the since-childhood Church world. Each with our own baggage and view of the value, we come to the table at different places of interest. It is at this point that I need to confess to you, dear reader, that this what if? question is mine. It’s one that I have been wrestling with since the pandemic began. I have never, not one time in my life, not been to church for 10 weeks. I took 4 weeks of maternity leave with child #1. I made it all the way to 6 with kiddo #2. Even when we were between churches, I visited (sometimes multiple) churches every week. And yet, here I find myself.

There is a huge part of my life, schedule and calendar that has been tied to the rhythm of all things church. We choose not to travel for certain holidays, so as not to miss special events. We prioritize the “extra” days because I have always believed that the practices of church activities were vital to my spiritual health. But something happened inside of me during Holy Week 2020. I didn’t not participate because I was not at church. I didn’t forget or even minimize the journey because I was not in charge of things. In all honesty, the opposite happened. I came alive.

I chronicled some of this in my Holy Week posts, especially my Saturday post. I allowed myself to do the things that I needed to do. I was not bogged down with telling the story so others could hear and understand, rather I told the story to my own soul. I gave myself space for quiet. I offered myself grace. It was so honoring.

My girl, Jen Hatmaker, threw down some truth on Facebook on Monday:

“Mostly, quarantine hasn’t created brokenness but exposed it. It has removed all the distractions and shiny parts that have kept us from the truth, from admitting what is real, and from the work.”

@jenhatmaker on Facebook

Thank, Jen. Thanks for calling out my crap right here on the carpet in front of the world and all of the truth tellers. That’s what this season has been. Most days have consisted of a long morning walk, gardening (yep, in my WEED FREE backyard), long writing sessions on the porch and some great conversations. I have talked on the phone WAAAAY more than I ever would. I have called friends that I rarely talk to because I needed MY people. I have trusted my truth and pain to new and old friends. I have searched for the truest of the true because I have been exposed. All of the cover of busyness and schedules were removed and I was forced to get down to business.

I have more to say about what’s next, post-quarantine, but for this question I need to honor myself. So today, I am going to speak to myself like I was speaking to one of my best friends. If they came to me and said, What If? I would say: Rest. Heal. Share. Search. Hope. Dig. Honor. Read all the things that you have been avoiding because of the what if’s. Listen to the voices that speak to you. Turn on music that stirs you to tears. Walk on the seawall at dawn when your soul is tired. Stay up too late and look at the fire. All of these things are Church for you, Lacy. And if, when the time comes, you are finding love and life in other ways, give yourself grace. God is not keeping attendance records.

Holy Week 2020: Saturday

I almost did not write today. There is a huge part of Saturday that is about the silence. The darkness needs to sink in. We need to have no answers. That needs to be the journey of the day. However, my friends, this particular season in our world seems like a never-ending Saturday of Holy Week, so I think we need to tune in today. We need to set our intention on what could, and can, and may be, when we chose to look for a new resurrection.

I have a bit of confession to make. This lenten season has been a train wreck of sorts in my spiritual journey. The momentum has been building for years, but the impact occurred in a very real way when I begin to step into my annual pilgrimage with the added invitation to reexamine my priorities in light of a global pandemic. In some bizarre and mysterious way, my soul needed permission to dig. I needed the ability to take off the edit button of my normal “routine” approach to faith. There is nothing like the feelings of grief and anger and loss and the aching of a stoppage of life to allow us to look long and hard at the path of connection.

I have allowed myself to say things like does this matter? Can I really connect with this? Is there beauty in this truth? Am I afraid to look at this one aspect of this story because if I do then it all unravels? Yes. The answers to these questions are all ‘yes’. And I have processed and written about this more in the past 3 weeks than I ever have in my life. This has been a season of watching the waves of awareness and questions come over me and go out with the tide of grief and doubt. This forced season of social distancing has refused to let me run from my heart and thoughts. And this is freeing me to surrender.

I have spent the last few weeks prioritizing my questions. One of my most important questions has been, “Who are my teachers?” I have let go of the need to have teachers give me answers. I have based so much of my understanding of the Divine on a regurgitation of other teacher’s favorite foods. This system has failed me in the quiet of my heart, because when I reach the moments of absolute hunger, what other people order as a main course will never satisfy my soul. I must be brave enough to seek the beauty of the feast for myself. Without the willingness to seek out and approach connection without the baggage of shame and should’s, I have no connection to the work of my growth. There is no way of placing God in a box. Actually, I have finally admitted that there is no box. And that is wonderfully and terrifyingly freeing.

I find myself on this Saturday sitting in the waiting. And while resurrection will look very different this Easter, I am thankful. There is nothing about my journey that can be divorced from the promise of new life. Even on the days when I don’t feel new. Even on the days when the story of hope seems so distant that it hurts. What I KNOW, really know, is that out of great pain comes great growth. That is the comfort of this long season of Saturdays.

I discovered a new Podcast last night that was a gift. A warm virtual hug for someone that wants no one to touch her in everyday life and yet now misses the physical connection of humanity. For those that need a soothing voice of meditation and calm today, I highly recommend Turning to the Mystics. I’ll close with a thought that is paraphrased from the Holy Week Mediation:

This pandemic has the ability to recalibrate our spiritual priorities and assumptions and rebirth a more generous clarity.  -James Finley

Friends, may we seek the light of tomorrow with all of our being.

May we know that hope does not always come in a neat and clean package.

May we look beyond the expected path for the miracle of resurrection.