When I was 10, I went to my parents separately and asked them if they ever doubted God’s existence. “No, never” was the response. I don’t remember if there was much curiosity after that. If there was, the lack of shared questioning led me to shut down and sweep my doubt and unbelief quickly and shamefully under the rug.
But I wasn’t sure and I had questions. Questions that felt too big and too intense to ask out loud. The concept of eternity left my head reeling. The darkness and loneliness of hell was petrifying, but so was the never-ending worship of a God I doubted. I decided that it was up to me to find answers to my questions and my doubt. To determine if there was a God in the stillness. So I studied and I prayed and I waited.
I remember owning a devotional that had a ranking system for your belief in God: 0 was completely atheistic and 10 was 100% sure. I’m not sure where I started…probably somewhere in the 3ish range.
I’m not sure why quantifying belief was comforting, but it was. I needed it to be measurable.
Over time spent questioning and talking to a God that I hoped was there, I found myself experiencing God as he intends to be experienced: in relationship. I realized that my doubt was not something to be ashamed of; it was a tool that actually brought me deeper connection. This wasn’t Sunday School God. This was God who could deal with all of my big questions, fear, unbelief, and denial. As my time searching increased, my need for my belief to fit neatly on a 0 to 10 plotted scale decreased.
What I experienced at 10 years old would now be called a “deconstruction” of faith, a term that has become prevalent in the past several years among those in my peer group (Millennials). The events of 2020 have made everything just that much more raw and in need of inspection.
And so I’m deconstructing again. This time I’m not questioning the existence of God; I’m questioning the enmeshment of faith and politics. It’s not a full scale demolition where I’m exchanging my Christianity for something else. It’s not even the gut-and-rebuild where I’m keeping the foundation and the framework but taking the house to the studs. No, it feels more like a remodel, and if you’ve ever been through a remodel, you know it is both deeply uncomfortable and intensely displacing.
Slowly, meticulously, I’m going through the rooms of my faith house and moving and removing the tenants of my long-held beliefs. I’m noticing cracks in walls and plumbing in need of repair. Furniture that is no longer my style. Once useful items that no longer serve me. Rugs that have hidden the doubts and uncertainties. Fragile belief systems have shattered and new tables have been added, and I’m left wondering how I have gone so long allowing the old things to remain while keeping the new things out.
The remodel is ongoing. It is costly, time consuming, and uncomfortable, and I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t end until I exit this world. But it is so, so worth it.
Lyndsey Amen Ribble lives in San Antonio with her husband and three sons (aged 5,4, and 1). She loves reading, writing, traveling, food (cooking it, eating it, taking pictures of it…), wine, hole in the wall anything, and forming community in unexpected places. She has a heart for bringing restoration to broken people and loving the unloved. She writes about all of these things and attempting to find balance at inlamensterms.com.