Deconstruction has become a popular term today as lots of Christians have questioned certain aspects of their faith. Many people who grew up in certain streams or expressions of Christianity are re-thinking some of the foundational truths that raised them. This is not inherently bad. Indeed, it can be a very good thing for people to test, question, or push back on things that they were indoctrinated in.
It is good to question teaching that deviated from the clear teachings of Jesus.
It is good to question teaching that fostered exclusivity or pride.
It is good to question teaching that used fear or intimidation to generate conformity.
It is good to question even the more positive aspects of our faith to ensure that we still believe what we have always believed.
The Apostle Paul said, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). We do want to test our inherited or unexamined faith to make sure that it really is the faith, and if it isn’t we must deconstruct it, rebuild it, and then reattach ourselves more tightly to it.
However, this is not an essay about deconstructing or disconnecting from faith generally, rather, I want to encourage you to create a little distance between your life of faith and some of your struggles and pain.
Here is what I mean. Even though our faith sustains us during hard times, helping us overcome and thrive amid those times, we do not want our faith to become too closely associated with our hard times. It has happened to Jessica and me before. There have been times in our life when everything around us was so difficult that ALL of our times of prayer or Scripture reading became focused on surviving those times. Although that is a natural—and not unhealthy—dynamic, we started to notice that the only time we prayed together was when something bad was happening. Subsequently, prayer became a bit triggering because it was only associated with all the negative stuff in our lives.
We can do the same with Bible reading or devotional reflections. If we only read or study when we need help during a painful time, devotional reading can become too enmeshed with our pain. The result is that we can become reluctant to read or pray, because after all, this is what we did in our lowest most desperate times.
Prayer is not a bummer. Reading the Bible is not a chore or a mere survival strategy. These things are portals to a greater, more powerful dimension of life, and that doorway needs to be protected. If we find ourselves only praying in the face of problems, we might need to disconnect prayer from those things. I don’t mean that we stop praying about our problems, but that we also pray about things besides our problems so that prayer does not begin to feel synonymous with our problems.
Remember, prayer is about far more than seeking answers for our struggles. Prayer is how we communicate with God. In my communications with Jess and the girls (and now Theo too), I don’t just ask them to do things for me. I talk to them. I share with them. I listen to them. And in doing so, I feel closer to them.
Psalm 138:3 says, “When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.” That is what prayer does for us! The psalmist didn’t say, “When I called, you did everything I asked, like you were my own personal valet.” That’s not what prayer is. Prayer is like the telephone booth where Clark Kent became Superman. It is the place where the Holy Spirit emboldens us so we can face whatever is on our horizon.
Of course, sometimes our prayers do more than strengthen us internally. Prayer does change things. God does use our prayers to accomplish great things in our lives; however, prayer is not a transactional, vending machine relationship whereby we log in some prayers and then wait for a miracle to drop into our lap.
If these thoughts resonate with you, try disconnecting your prayers so they aren’t exclusively tied to your problems. Spend time praying about other things. Pray with your friends or sweethearts when things are going well as well as when things are going bad. I have often reached out to friends to pray for me when things were overwhelming or bad, but I have seldom sent out a prayer request saying, “Hey friends, things are going really great today, pray for me!” Why can’t we do that? Why can’t we attach our prayers to some things other than our greatest problems?
Prayer is big enough for both. And if we practice this kind of prayer, we might end up with less overall deconstruction to do in some of the other areas of our faith.