Note: The featured image comes from here. I know I can use it how I like because of the Creative Commons license but I want to support the people whose work I steal.
I posted a great conversation between Pete Holmes and Richard Rohr on Twitter the other day (HERE) and in part of it, Pete talks about his faith room, deconstructing it, and then reconstructing it. It really is a great illustration, and I have spent a stupid amount of time thinking about it since I first listened to it.
As I was showering (the best incubator for creative thought) and thinking about what I wanted to write this week, I got to thinking about the three stages of faith that they talk about in that podcast – construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction – and their discussion of getting stuck in one of the early stages. I especially thought of getting stuck in the deconstruction phase.
A lot of people, out of anger or frustration or whatever emotion they are feeling that causes them to deconstruct, just stay in that second phase. They just want to burn it down, burn their faith down and dance in the smoldering ashes of what was before. Someone gave them, or they created, something that became matches and gasoline to their faith, and they combined the two in the middle of their faith room and burned the mother to the ground.
And that’s fine. Sometimes you have to just burn it to the ground. Sometimes there is nothing good or healthy – especially for you – in your faith room and deconstructing it peacefully won’t work. Like some abandoned houses or barns, the best option is gasoline and matches.
There are two outcomes to this. One is the healthy one; the violent catharsis did it’s job and you are able to put out the flames and rebuild. Maybe your faith room is just a grass patch without a belief structure, or maybe you rebuild with something completely different but still a faith room. That is fine, as long as you don’t just stay in that burning stage.
The other outcome is that you really liked when you burnt down your faith room; you really liked the violence of the fire destroying your beliefs. It felt good, and you thought it was the most moral thing you could do. So you collect your matches and gasoline and force them upon other people, trying to watch the whole house of all belief rooms burn to the ground. You really push them on those whose houses have the same furniture and decorations that you have, trying desperately to make them burn it down because you needed to burn yours down and no one else should have that faith.
Some people will take your matches and gasoline and burn their faith rooms down because they were searching for matches and gasoline, but you can’t make anyone do that. You can’t burn the faith rooms down of anyone, no matter how much you want to. Even if their room causes you pain, even if you can’t stand the sight of what they have put in their faith room, you can’t burn it down no matter how much you want to.
I kind of want to talk about my deconstruction and (hopeful) reconstruction to illustrate this. I was raised Christian – Presbyterian in fact – and I haven’t veered from it much.
Actually, that’s not true. I had a time where I just started tossing everything organized out. Everything. I didn’t have violent or fast deconstruction, I didn’t move everything out in a day; I just started taking things out that I didn’t think made sense. I really found myself with an old but wonderful couch – the Apostles’ Creed – and a mirror.
But I started rebuilding from there. I believed that there is a God, that Christ was real, and that a Holy Spirit works within me. Everything else was fair game.
It is odd, but I find that the things that have made their way back into my faith room aren’t all that different than the thing that were in here before, just better or older or more intentional and personal. The couch of depravity of humanity was once a cheap, Walmart pleather couch that wouldn’t last; I replaced it with black heirloom couch that was melancholy but brought me comfort, and then replaced that one with a brightly colored custom couch that is comfortable and great for sitting and talking and be with anyone and being truly comfortable. The computer of loving God with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind was replaced by a desk, bookshelf, weight bench, heater, and better computer of loving God with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind. The end table of loving God was from the Dollar Store but know is built by my hands, imperfect and flawed but strong and personal.
The thing I think a lot of people who want to watch the faith rooms of everyone burn miss is that I have the matches and gasoline in my room, too. Some of the matches sit in a cupboard, some are used to light candles and start controlled fires. Some of the gasoline became kerosene for a lamp, some is gasoline that I left outside while I contemplate what to do with it, some of it had no weight and became water as it entered my room. But it’s all there; I just didn’t use it to burn everything down.
The thing about the reconstruction phase is it’s kind of like remodeling a house; nothing is ever permanent again. I’m reminded of my friend Nathan remodeling his kitchen; he took out ten layers of flouring, with wood over and under multiple layers, and wood again under everything (not exaggerating). The process of changing and rebuilding is never done, and is never permanent. If I were to put a timeline on it, my deconstruction started in high school and got stronger in the beginning of college, and my reconstruction started at the end of college, but then I started seminary and a bunch of cleaning happened and a bunch of stuff got replaced with stronger and better stuff, some made by me, a lot made by people who make faith furniture that I customized after the fact. And I burned the hutch of condemning individual sins and judging people whose sins are different than mine in a glorious fashion with fireworks and dynamite that brought the spectators (liberals) and police (conservatives) alike, all whom were disappointed.
Only I can burn my faith room to the ground. You are welcome to give me the matches and gasoline – much of which I already have – but only I can strike the match. Kind of like only you could strike the match of your faith room. And only I can put things in my faith room, build the walls, and decorate the room. No matter how much you want me to have your couch or painting or rug, I alone can choose what comes in and what stays out.
Everyone would be happier if we stopped trying to control and build the faith rooms of others. All we can do is give them access to elements and love them; they have to do the rest, and because the only way faith and love work is if people are free to choose. Love can certainly help move things in if requested, it can certainly let up the gasoline puddles and open the gas valves, but it can’t strike the match or force things in.
Each faith room in individual and personal and can’t be made by anyone else. So give access to furniture and matches and gasoline and water out of love, and stop forcing them on people.
I hope that all made sense. Now to do what I actually need to do today. This isn’t a sermon, I don’t think.
P.S.: If you like this and want to comment, do so below. I love Facebook likes and comments, but they don’t really help in terms of a blog. So if you want to comment on Facebook, duplicate it here, pretty please. And if you like, share all over the place. I can only share so many ways before I’m a bother or look like spam.