It was this gray, small yet oddly thing called a laptop. I distinctly remember the first game I ever played on it was the Lion King. For a kid like me, this was momentous. That was the day my love for technology began to grow and my curiosity to learn more about them.
I remember one day when my dad was away at work, I took the laptop and started playing on it. I don’t remember why, but I couldn’t seem to make it work. So I took it upon myself to fix it.
I spent some time digging into the operating system and the software installed but I still couldn't find the issue. After a few hours I thought, if this isn’t a software problem, I need to take it apart.
You know what’s about to happen.
This 12-year-old took a laptop apart without knowing how a computer worked. I had a lot of fun disassembling the laptop. The joy of seeing all the different parts that made the laptop work was amazing. But then when came time to put it all back together, this pre-teen had no idea how.
I remember seeing my dad and looking at his face when he found me with the pieces all spread out on the floor. He was shocked but then I was surprised by his response. He didn’t get mad. He didn’t yell. He just said to take this as a learning experience. He didn’t diminish my curiosity but rather celebrated it.
He empowered me to keep exploring.
The Need for Solid Food
If my dad would have reacted in frustration, my curiosity would have been diminished. I’m glad he didn’t because if I was a curious little boy then, I would become even more fascinated by how the world works and not just about knowing how something works but why. This pushed me to delve, not just into the technological world but also into the internal architecture of humanity – who we are at our deepest core.
My curiosity took me to learn about how our mind works, what it looks like to live wholeheartedly, what it means to be spiritually alive and step into the glory of being human. There is so much technological innovation happening all around us yet there isn’t a whole lot of human evolution within our personhood. The truth is we aren’t that fragile. We are still seedlings waiting to bloom. So each moment must become about learning what it is to step into a deeper way of being. Especially, within the church.
I’ve been in the church world my entire life and I’ve seen the ups and downs of Christianity. Yet there is one thing I’ve realized about the church, the message she carries has lost its substance. Deep in the scriptures are beautiful, deep, and magnificent truths laid hidden; meals that are ready to be tasted, yet much of what we feed on is nothing more than regurgitated meals that have been passed down in the last 500 years or so.
All I can hear are the words of Paul saying, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.”
I believe part of the conversation about deconstruction is just that…we’ve realized somewhere along the lines we stopped eating solid food and much of what is being fed to us now is nothing much than a fast food meal. So we can’t do what we’ve always done before. We have to return to our childlike impulse to be curious and feast on something that is of substance.
The Dark Side of Deconstruction
When we grow up in an environment where everything is defined for us, there isn’t a whole lot of room for self-discovery. What we believe, what we think, and what we do is dictated either by our parents, our community, and our church. When we are part of a church community that has its own collective identity, naturally we yield because it’s our Christian duty. And if we don't, we are told God will curse us or punish us. So we go with the group not knowing that our individuality is being sacrificed on the altar of the collective.
Now imagine having a community that is raised without a solid sense of identity at the individual level. The foundation becomes compromised and when that happens things begin to crumble very fast.
Why? Because the quest for identity and a sense of individuality is at the core of our spirituality. And when the collective identity strips that away from people, something has got to give. People will eventually wake up from the cage they’ve lived in for so long and create their own exodus. Deconstruction is the new exodus.
Deconstruction is the modern version of the exodus where the church has become a type of Egypt and pastors its pharaoh. Religious obligation and performance-driven theology became the brick and mortar that gave people their value and its church leader is its taskmasters. True meaning and authentic expression of identity are lost in the sea of productivity and church empire.
Churchianity forfeited the beauty of spirituality and has dulled the taste of authentic expression of faith to the point that people are rejecting Jesus and the church completely.
Most of what is happening now is the rejection of one’s history and the faith tradition they grew up with that almost has this spirit of bitterness fueling its motivation. It’s a reaction to their pain, and their wounding. This is where deconstruction gets destructive.
There is a collective movement of people deconstructing their faith from a place of pain but that’s all they can do. It’s an exodus without a promised land.
An exodus without a promise gets you stuck and just like a 12-year-old taking a computer apart, deconstruction without a blueprint invites chaos. Your journey becomes focused on what happened to you as opposed to returning to identity.
When the Israelites found themselves captive for over 400 years, slavery is no longer just a condition it’s become an identity. So when they were redeemed from their captors they had to go through their own deconstruction. They had to go through their own journey of reclaiming their identity before they could even step into their promised land.
God brought their exodus but it was the hope of freedom that brought a new center of gravity they can orbit around. Their promised land became a tangible anchor that they can hold on to at the individual level all the way to the collective level.
The Other Side of Deconstruction
Deconstruction and revelation are two sides of the same coin.
If revelation is to reveal something that’s always been there, then deconstruction seeks to understand what revelation unveils, and living in the tension of both is where wisdom comes from.
You’re not just in revelation doing something you don’t understand, but you’ve deconstructed it and see why it works and most importantly why it matters.
In my own journey, I went through a season of deconstruction because I was genuinely curious about why I believe what I believe, why I act the way I act, and why am I here at this particular place at this particular time.
It wasn’t because I was hurt by a church or a particular group of people. I wanted to embark on a quest to discover what it truly is to become fully alive stepping into what it means to be fully human.
It’s ultimately the question of purpose.
From all the questions I’ve asked and all the journey of discovery I’ve been in, the question about deconstruction is fundamentally the question about our identity.
It’s the question that asks, “Who am I at the core and why am I here…without the filters, without the indoctrination, without the dogma….just pure and undiluted me.”
If the question about deconstruction is about identity, I’ve learned the best place to find that answer is found in our history, not the rejection of it. It isn’t ultimately about forgetting what happened to us but about embracing it and letting it shape who we are being now in the road to a better way of being.
That’s why after the exodus, there was an emphasis to not forget but to remember. To build memorial stones of what happened so when you look back in the rearview mirror of your life, you can celebrate your redemption. But you have to have hope. You have to have a promise. You have to have something that you are holding on to other than your pain.
There has to be something bigger than who you are now that you can anchor yourself to. Something…or Someone that can be a mirror to your becoming.
And if you’re in the middle of deconstruction, I want to let you know that I see you. I recognize the pain you’ve experienced and the hunger for solid food. Don’t let this moment pass you by but use it to propel you forward. And instead of reacting to pain, lean in and find a promise. Let hope to push you to redeem your history and reclaim your identity.
The Redemptive Deconstruction Process
So how do you deconstruct to reclaim identity rather than reject your history? Below is the process of what worked for me. I call it The Redemptive Deconstruction Process.
1. Self-awareness. Know who you are, how you are wired. What are your fears and your triggers? Deconstruction must start with your personhood before it can continue with our belief system. It’s important to differentiate identity from personality. The former is innate, the latter is formed.
2. Own your story – the past, the hurt, the trauma, the process – your pain will color the way you see. That’s why self-awareness is the foundation. Pain can masquerade as the voice of your identity. You have to be able to differentiate who you are versus what you have come to believe. Only then can you discover who you are and who you are becoming. Pain has a voice but so does your identity.
3. Honor where you come from. You are where you are today because of the journey it took to get you here. The opposite of honor is shame. Shame disconnects you from your story and makes your past an enemy. Owning your history is where the redemption of your past and the restoration of your glory begins.
4. Give grace to yourself so you can extend it to those around you. Forgiveness towards you and to those who might have led you astray is key. Leaders only lead from what they think they know. They have their own sets of lenses they are working from. It’s hard to give them the benefit of the doubt, but it’s essential to your healing.
5. Set healthy boundaries. In reality, the reason we go through a deconstruction phase in all areas of life is when we’ve realized we’ve been in a codependent relationship. This is especially true with the church, with our leaders, and so-called “spiritual fathers.” Because we didn’t know how to release people into their own journey of faith, we have unconsciously cultivated a codependent relationship with our members. We didn’t trust that they could, so we spoon-fed people. We would rather protect our doctrine than empower people into self-discovery. Another reason for this co-dependent relationship is because that is how we think God wants our relationship with Him. This is your faith journey and no one can live your spiritual life for you. So you have to own it.
6. There is permission to explore. When Paul said, “all things are yours,” to the Corinthians it was in the context of following leaders. “So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” That speaks of permission. You have way more permission than what you’ve been told. But 7 chapters later he says, “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.” With permission comes responsibility. He empowers them but then invites them to take responsibility for what they do. You have permission to explore but recognize what is actually beneficial and encourages your transformation.
7. Study and Learn – once you have all the above then continue learning and dissecting and deconstructing your belief systems and faith traditions. Go back to the very beginning of why you believed in the first place. What drew you? What is driving you out? What are your questions? Learn why the scriptures were written, who it was written to, what the context is. Learn the different theological filters that might have been taught to you. Because you might just find how beautiful the scripture really is.
8. Find a blueprint – There is a center in everything. Find something or someone to anchor yourself to or else you will always feel like you’re lost. For me, Jesus is the one. After my own deconstruction, I found that there is no one else I would rather anchor myself to than his teaching and his life and the truth he came to embody. I see him as the blueprint of humanity we are all trying to aspire to. He is my self-actualization. When Paul said he’s our mirror, it’s an invitation for our being to be actualized into his image. He is my becoming. The question you have to answer for yourself is this: who are you becoming? That question will determine your anchor and center and the one who sits in the throne room of your heart. Before you can continue in your journey, make a choice who you will orbit yourself to.