The Spiritual Journey Part 3: Reconstruction (Playing LEGO with Your Faith)

My 12 year old son Eli loves LEGO.

Indeed, for the last couple of years we’ve gotten him a large LEGO set either for Christmas or his birthday. He’s got a 12-inch LEGO Yoda, the Avengers quinjet, and the Batman batcave. When he opens a new set, gets out the rather large manual, he patiently and meticulously assembles all the pieces into an impressive whole. And when it comes to the big LEGO sets, once finished he puts them on display.

That’s what we call construction.

Now, there’s one thing we all know about LEGO. It doesn’t take long before a prized creation gets dissembled, its manual misplaced (or ignored), and the pieces mixed in with all the other miscellaneous LEGO pieces you have.

Thus, deconstruction.

Then the fun begins. You get to use those very same pieces to build something new. You take what you’ve been given and make it your own.

In other words, reconstruction.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but it gets us going in the right direction.

During the construction stage, we receive the building blocks of faith. Others we know and trust implicitly pass on their beliefs. Because we trust them, we assume the beliefs they’ve handed on to us are true—that they are trustworthy and reliable.

When we find ourselves going through deconstruction, questions and doubts lead us to rearrange and even get rid of some of these building blocks. While this is happening, we’re not sure what will be left or what it will look like. It can be difficult and disorienting.

But like I said previously, this is a normal process that a lot of people go through.

For some, however, it leads to the abandoning of the Christian faith altogether. All the building blocks of faith end up in the trash can or packed away in a box never to be reopened. Believing nothing from their upbringing is salvageable, they post on Facebook or Instagram that they no longer believe. Sometimes along with a serene image of themselves sitting on a lakeshore under calm blue skies. Shades of Psalm 23’s lead me beside still waters, except without the Good Shepherd anywhere in sight.

But where does this process lead? Where can we expect or hope to end up? That brings us to reconstruction. In his book After Doubt: How to Question Your Faith Without Losing it, A.J. Swoboda describes reconstruction this way: “Having asked, challenged, and prodded, we return a second time to the same faith we were handed . . . after doing the complex and exhausting work of putting it through the fire.”

When it comes to reconstruction, I need to point out that this part of the spiritual journey is only possible when we go through deconstruction honestly. Only if we are asking our questions sincerely and seeking genuine answers will we arrive again where we once began, this time with the roots of our beliefs having penetrated that much more deeply into the soil of our hearts and minds.

The truth is, some jettison their faith not for theological, spiritual, intellectual, or ethical reasons. Instead, they do so because they simply want to live how they want to live, sleep with whomever they want to sleep with, make choices which make them happy, without worrying about what God, the Bible, or the church has to say. This is not healthy deconstruction. This is the rejection of the Christian faith. And they are most decidedly not the same.

All those years ago, when I first began wrestling with what I believed, there were a few things that really helped me. For starters, I began reading the Bible. I took university classes on the Bible. I actually bought my first Bible! Thankfully, my professor was actually a Christian even though I was attending a secular university (Mount Allison). I learned about the history of the Bible, the different literary genres of the Bible, and of course the actual content of the different books of the Bible.

So don’t let your questions about the Bible keep you from reading it. Perhaps you need a fresh way to engage the text of Scripture. Purchase a new study Bible, like the ESV or CSB study Bible. Or pick up a “Reader’s Bible.” This is the kind of Bible that removes all the chapter and verse divisions which are not part of the original manuscripts, allowing you to read it without dissecting it into disconnected bits. Many different translations offer Reader’s Bibles. You can also subscribe to Bible Gateway and you will get access to all kinds of Bible dictionaries, commentaries, devotionals, and atlases. Buy Gordon Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth. It’s a classic book that is accessible and helpful.

In other words, make use of resources that can help you understand the cultural, literary, and historical aspects of the Bible.

On the one hand, the Bible’s basic, foundational story about God and salvation are easy enough for a young child to grasp. On the other hand, how each story, character, and book of the Bible fits into this foundational story isn’t always simple to grasp. We all need help to understand.

Something else that was key for me was community. While going through this process I still went to church. I got involved with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. I spent time with other believers, including people my own age from a variety of church backgrounds. I had other people of faith encouraging me. I didn’t isolate myself or reject the church. Even during the season when I didn’t know what church I could be a part of anymore. This meant that as I was wrestling with my questions, I wasn’t alone.

For some, it might feel strange to go to church when you’re struggling with what you believe. Perhaps seeing other people who don’t have your questions makes you feel awkward. Could be you think that you wouldn’t be welcome if people were aware of your doubts. But while I can understand and imagine some situations when a person might stop going to church for a time, cutting yourself off from your family of faith will leave you spiritually vulnerable. We always need people in our lives who are there to listen to our doubts, ask us tough questions, and to encourage us. Maybe you’ll discover someone else in your church who not only has asked the same questions, but has thought through their answers too. I’m guessing they’d be glad to share.

I’ll also say this. If you find yourself in a period of doubt and wrestling, identify the questions you have. Write them down. Be specific. Try to capture in words as best as you can what is making you uneasy about your faith and what you were taught to believe. Do the work of going after answers to those questions. Is your struggle with the reliability of the Bible? Find resources to help you with that. Is it a particular doctrine? Find out what the Bible and the Christian tradition has historically said on the matter. Is it how Christians deal with certain social and cultural issues, like human sexuality? I can help if you don’t know how to find such resources.

And remember, like Pastor and author Timothy Keller once said, “Doubt your doubts.” In fact, go read this article Keller wrote a few years back. In it he discusses five doubts you can doubt. His books, The Reason for God and Making Sense of God are both fantastic, though the first is much more accessible than the latter.

Know this: God can handle your doubts and questions. They don’t surprise or anger him. In Jude 1:22 it says to have mercy on those who doubt. Surely, if Scripture tells us to have mercy on those who doubt, God’s mercy for those who struggle with doubt and questions must be infinitely vast. Keeping this in mind throughout the process is also very important. You can bring your hard questions to God. You can still pray, even when you’re wrestling with your faith and not entirely sure of everything you believe.

One final thought. Even if you’re not someone who has doubts and questions assaulting your heart and mind, it’s still a good idea to build up your faith and to increase your understanding of the Bible and Christian theology. Don’t wait until you begin struggling with your faith.

Romans 12:2 says Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says we are to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.

1 Peter 3:15 says in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

When we learn to do this well and in the midst of Christian community, then we will discover that on the other side of deconstruction not only is our faith intact but stronger and deeper than before.

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