A large bulldozer demolished the bridge in front of me.
“I’m just trying to get home!” I exclaimed with my face in my palms as I watched.
One of the most troubling aspects of living in Waco, Texas, has been driving amid the ongoing construction of Interstate 35.
It is inconvenient to discover that roads, which could easily connect drivers to their destinations, have been closed.
It is frustrating to discover that what were originally one-way streets have become two-way streets.
It is difficult to drive over uneven roads with potholes that seem to be strategically placed to destroy my tires.
I get a headache just thinking about the heavy traffic that is sure to be present morning, noon and night.
The construction process has been so disruptive and lengthy that it can be a casual topic of conversation among Wacoans.
Yet, apparently, there is a need for this construction.
Since it was constructed in the 1950s, I-35 has functioned as an essential artery, providing a means of connection for the divergent communities throughout the widespread state of Texas.
Growth in the economy and in the population of Texas has revealed that the interstate was not constructed to support the magnitude of the traffic it carries today.
As unpleasant as it has been, the deconstruction and reconstruction of I-35 are important for the safety of every driver passing through Waco.
Ongoing construction presents an interesting correlation to Christians undergoing a deconstruction of their faith.
This process involves reevaluating the foundations of one’s belief system to determine which beliefs are sustainable.
As people experience tragedy, trauma and turbulence, some find that their belief systems have not been constructed to uphold the impacts of such occurrences. This realization warrants reevaluation of one’s beliefs in light of their experiences.
Similar to my distress over the various detours throughout Waco, a person undergoing faith deconstruction can feel perplexed as they discover that familiar roads of thinking are no longer accessible.
The individual realizes they can get hurt if they continue to travel these roads that cannot handle the magnitude of what they are carrying.
Therefore, they confront beliefs about God, their self and the world around them with the goal of dismissing what is not sustainable and building a stronger foundation.
The process can be uncomfortable, confusing and, unfortunately, lonely.
The goal of faith deconstruction is not destruction, but reconstruction.
Some suggest that it is an act of faith in itself because it is a way of seeking a new understanding of God rather than completely throwing faith away.
Much like the I-35 construction, fellow believers observing friends and family undergoing deconstruction express weariness due to the length of time it takes the person to reconstruct their faith.
Yet, it is necessary because people want a belief system that can carry the weight that comes with tragedy, suffering and life’s most unexpected challenges.
It is important for pastoral caregivers to consider how they might faithfully dialogue with those who undergo the process of faith deconstruction to combat the loneliness, shame and despair that people can feel as they endure.
I think a faithful response involves three components.
- Offering compassion
Pastoral caregivers should recognize that deconstruction can be an extremely troubling process.
It takes courage to be honest about the struggle one is having holding onto their beliefs.
We can demonstrate compassion by listening to people deeply, acknowledging the difficulty of the process and commending the courage it takes to be so vulnerable.
Pastoral caregivers should learn what has brought the individual to the point of deconstruction and lament with them if a tragedy has sparked it.
While we may not be able to offer immediate answers, we can extend faithful presence as they navigate these difficult questions.
- Providing companionship
Deconstruction is very personal, but it doesn’t have to be engaged alone.
It is important for pastoral caregivers to understand their role in the process of companionship.
Pastoral caregivers should also recognize that the individual maintains the primary role in their deconstruction. It is not our job to rush people through the process or to persuade them to maintain certain beliefs.
We are not charged to provide easy answers, but to engage in faithful presence while people wrestle with the deepest questions of human existence.
- Giving comfort
It can be tempting to rush to comfort before providing compassion and companionship, but we should resist this desire.
The goal of deconstruction is to reconstruct beliefs that can sustain us through life’s most turbulent circumstances.
It is difficult to find comfort during confusion. However, hope is found amid mystery because God is present in the thick of it.
Throughout the unique process of deconstruction, pastoral caregivers can bring comfort to individuals by assuring them that the process will not last forever and that God is with them amid the mystery.
It is important to remind people that God does not frown upon us for having questions or not knowing everything. God is compassionate and present throughout our process.
Scripture attests that amid great tribulation, God continues to extend a holy presence. It is good to know that God is with us when we feel lost, confused and distraught.
Rather than avoiding people who undergo the difficult process of deconstruction, pastoral caregivers should extend compassion, companionship and comfort to serve as an extension of God’s faithful presence amid mystery.
Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series focused on engaging the emerging generations of faith leaders. If you know anyone who might be interested, encourage them to submit an article for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org.