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Climbing to the top of the mountain: my reconstruction story

I’ve written before about my deconstruction, as that is the theme of my blog. I have written about the impact Rachel Held Evans has had on me, as well as egalitarianism. I have written about how I became egalitarian. I have written about how I have spent time in and left Exvangelical circles and Progressive Christian circles. I have settled on a framework of Christlikeness and keeping Jesus as the center of my faith journey and my life, but I have never written on how I arrived at such a place.

This is that story.

As many of you know, I started my deconstruction journey in 2016 after exhausting the limits of conservative/complementarian Christianity. As a single woman at 26, I felt like the church had no place for me, and I was following what they wanted by still found myself pushed to the side because I didn’t have a spouse or children. They said that following Jesus was what mattered, but at the wind up of it, that is not what mattered. However, they introduced me to my love of Jesus, they gave me community, they are how I met my therapist, and I am forever grateful for all of that.

I discovered egalitarianism in June 2016 and I spent about six months researching on websites like The Junia Project, Christians for Biblical Equality, and Rachel Held Evans’ blog. I discovered that everything I read lined up. I was afraid that I was perhaps following my own path and wading off into heresy land, but it all made sense. After several months of research, I was solid on this newfound belief. Suddenly, I had a place. My sense of self grew, and I blossomed. I was happy, and felt like I could be who God created me to be. It was great. However, since this Christian framework for a large portion of my life (which I didn’t fit into at all) was apparently not the truth, what else could I be wrong about? I started questioning everything I believed, from whether or not LGBT was a sin to Jesus’ resurrection.

That was a heartbreaking moment. I was so afraid that I was going to reason myself out of my faith journey. I loved God. I had always loved God. Could he stand up to my questions? The short answer was yes. If our faith cannot stand up to doubt and questions, it’s not truly faith. I remember reading something along these lines in Greg Boyd’s Benefit of the Doubt. I discovered people like Tim Fall, Jory Micah (she was actually the first blogger I discovered, even before Rachel), NT Wright, I learned that some people who are supposed to be shepherds in fact abuse their flock. I discovered people like Ashley Easter, and the Spiritual Sounding Board, I found Christian Janeway, I found other people on Twitter who were asking the same questions I was. I found people like Sierra White and then, Ezer Rising.

I went into closed Facebook groups to ask questions because I knew no one in real life who was asking the same questions I was. I felt very alone. I ended up questioning God’s
“place” for women, then I discovered feminism, and male privilege and white privilege and the concept of privilege. I became more empathetic towards people who were different from me, so I also became more empathetic toward myself. I discovered mindfulness and meditation. I researched healthy relationships and self worth. I asked questions in groups about LGBT affirmation and inclusion and changed my mind, I asked about hell. I leaned universalist for a bit, but could never make that work, so I am not a universalist. I learned that God is God, it really doesn’t matter if we call him “he,” although now I do, because it doesn’t bother me. I learned about Jesus as a compassionate healer who came to make us whole. He wasn’t simply a guy who did good things and is a person to model our lives after.

I spent some time in online progressive Christian circles, and that’s where I started running into problems. Everyone was still asking questions, or being completely reactionary and that was no longer where I was. I grew frustrated. For about a year, I felt very alone in where I was, and very frustrated. It was like I was stuck in an abyss of reactionary stuff, and no one was moving forward, everyone was complaining about where they came from. That has a time and a place, but I don’t think it’s healthy to live there. I heard that deconstruction can last for four years, at the maximum, and then you need to rebuild. Mine was done in about two and a half.

I read a book by a Christian author about healing from trauma in February of 2019. I was ending my time in therapy and picked up this book. I read it in about a week and a half, and towards the beginning the author, Mary DeMuth, wrote about how Jesus was there with us in our darkest moments, weeping. I stopped. Put the book down. I wept.

This Jesus? That died for my sins, was there with me in my darkest moments? Then, it was like a light came on. My questions were done, I didn’t need evidence for my faith, I didn’t need everything to have proof. I remembered a verse in 1 Corinthians 15 about Jesus appearing to 500 people after his resurrection.

3 “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” – 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8

He appeared to 500 people after his resurrection. It wasn’t just Mary running to tell the disciples. It wasn’t only the disciples he appeared to. It was 500 people! Now, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if this actually happened, but if 500 people in that time all had the same experience and shared that, and people were willing to die on their belief in Jesus, then my doubts can be cast aside, and I can believe that he did what he says he did and that he is the Son of God.

Boom. Reconstruction.

A large part of my framework theologically has been Christlikeness. If it isn’t like Jesus, it doesn’t work for me. I see God as best revealed through Jesus. And what do I see when I look at Jesus? I see someone who’s death was a sacrifice so I could be made whole. Jesus isn’t fire insurance. Jesus came so we could be made whole. “By his wounds, we are healed.” I believe we are not only healed of our own sin, but we are healed of sins committed against us. Jesus makes us clean. He washes us white as snow. God loves us infinitely, and Jesus is the manifestation of that love. God is love.

I don’t believe that means we get to do whatever we want, because how we live matters. Are we loving God with our whole hearts? Are we loving our neighbors as ourselves? Are we loving ourselves? I don’t mean to love ourselves in a selfish way, but in a self-aware way. Are we utilizing proper boundaries and having self-compassion? If we don’t love ourselves properly, we cannot love our neighbors because we don’t know how! This is why things like self awareness, self compassion, and self care are vitally important. But much of Christianity talks about how the self is bad, and I don’t believe that is entirely true. Sin is bad, but God created us, and we are good.

Jesus is how we are healed from sin and reconciled to God so we can live wholehearted lives.

I was on a Jesus kick after God brought to me to all of these realizations, and I still am. I don’t fit neatly in any theological box whether it be conservative or progressive, and I make people mad because of that. I don’t really care for the stories about how the church is bad anymore because that doesn’t ring true for me. In fact, it feels like a stumbling block. No church is perfect. Sure, call out abuse, but heal from it, don’t make it your identity. There are churches that are open to doubt, but being reactionary against where I came from is not my thing. I don’t hate where I came from at all. They were important in my journey. If anything frustrates me about my current spiritual space, it is the talk here-and-there about where we came from. I wish the Episcopal church was my thing and that I was more liturgical, because I would make the jump if I knew how it all worked. I have recently discovered the Daily Office and I like that it brings me into prayer and Scripture. It is also very centering. The Nicene Creed makes me cry. I guess I miss Jesus that much.

I love Jesus. I believe he is the point of Christianity, and that without him, we don’t have a faith. I believe his death and resurrection happened and that he gave his life as a sacrifice to make us whole. I believe that God is always with us. I believe that Jesus heals us. I think that an aim to be Christlike is a healthy goal.

Jesus is my framework for my spiritual life, as well as every other area of my life. I love Jesus, and I always will. Thanks be to God.

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Reconstruction thoughts, one year in

Um. I really miss Scripture!

As much as I like the Lectionary, and I of course love Jesus, I feel like I only hear Scripture in bits and pieces. This was fine for me a couple of years ago when I couldn’t handle Scripture because there was so much to unpack, but now… I miss Scripture. I feel like the Bible is something I now want to read and meditate upon.

I need to read this more.

The Daily Office is getting me back into prayer and reading Scripture and I am appreciative of that. It’s causing me to stop and become more contemplative and that is needed in the busy pace of my life these days.

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Reassurance

So I was driving home and listening to KLove (drag me, Exvies), and that Fear No More song by The Afters came on.

Usually I don’t like Jesus-as-a-band-aid type of music, which that song isn’t, and I really don’t care for the super emotional melodies that can make a person cry. Tonight however, I was reminded that God cares about all of our needs.

I remembered Jesus saying “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV) That reminded me that God does care about me and my needs (and he does for you as well), and my anxiety melted away.

Then Lauren Daigle’s First came on, and I was reminded to put God first, ahead of stress and worry and anxiety. I love that song.

I was reminded tonight that Jesus cares about me, and for the first time in a few days, I felt okay.

I feel like so many of us who have deconstructed have forgotten those little tidbits of faith where we’re reminded how much God loves us.

So often, I see posts about how the church is horrible, and the Republicans are horrible, and we’re all going to die, and it adds to the chaos. Things are very hectic right now, maybe we don’t need to see constant updates on how the world is apparently ending.

But if I can be reminded that Jesus cares about me through this little song, maybe I can focus on him, and maybe I will feel better.

Whatever happens with this thing is out of my hands. I can only take it as it comes. Stressing out isn’t going to help me, but focusing on God might.

And no matter what, nothing can separate me from God’s love.

This got long. Sleep well.

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Another post in appreciation of Rachel

One of my goals of Lent is to read. A lot. I’m on my third book of Lent, and I’m also taking time to read through Rachel Held Evans’ blog. I started at the end and am working my way backwards.

One thing I really appreciate about her is how kind she is when she writes. She presents things in a way that are open to nuance, instead of her demanding us think a certain way, she presents her views considerately and compassionately. People said she was like that on Twitter, as well.

I’m excited to see what she has to say about doubt, but I am currently in 2014. I have followed all of the people she has suggested her readers follow on Twitter thus far.

I need to listen to Pete Enns’ podcast with her as a guest, as well as Jen Hatmaker’s podcast as well.

I miss Rachel. She is the reason I am a Christian today. She is actually my connection to everything regarding my faith today: my decision to question things and hang on, all of my online friends, my social media presence, my blogs, my therapist, my current church and the relationships there. One person’s writings can have such a profound impact on nearly every area of life. I am so thankful for her. She is loved and missed.

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Ash Wednesday

I have joked that today is my holiday.

Today marks the official beginnings of Lent. The banners and the color was removed from the pulpits at church tonight, leaving a somber type of feel to the place.

My pastor spoke on cups and various places in our faith journeys, and I thought of my own: certainty, doubt, deconstruction, lingering, reconstruction, restoration and wholeness. Then we cupped our hands and emptied them, ready to receive what God has for us.

“May you be open to the future God has in store for you, Ashley.”

She said that to every person.

This is pertinent for my life right now, as I am taking time away from the light of the internet/public faith declarations and sharing and into quiet and reflection. I am stepping forward in both the personal and professional realms of my life, and the professional is definitely exciting. Restoration.

God always restores.

“May you be open to the future God has in store for you.”

I believe good things lie ahead.

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Talking about singleness on social media: Responses

Today is Valentine’s Day. If you’re single and you mention it at all on social media, here’s the responses you may get from your friends:

  • Outright ignored, they keep scrolling
  • Person who agrees
  • One person goes “you misinterpreted what I said” instead of them apologizing for hurting you
  • Another person who suggests you join a club when you work 4 jobs and literally don’t have time to do that
  • A person who got married at 18 and tells you that you don’t need a spouse
  • Someone says you post about singleness a lot
  • “Marriage is hard too!”
  • “At least you aren’t in an abusive marriage!”
  • “Hey! You didn’t get married at 20 like I did, so you get to live your life! I was more hurt than you!”
  • “Have you tried dating apps yet?” Yes, I have, they have earned me a ton of terrible stories.
  • Pitying look from your therapist which he can’t relate to your struggle because he got married young
  • “Marriage is also hard!”
  • “You talk about singleness a lot!”
  • “Your expectations are too high.”
  • “You need to put yourself out there more.”
  • “You should wear makeup!”
  • “God, you talk about this too much. Stop talking about wanting to be married!”
  • “You look desperate.”
  • “The church didn’t hurt you, you aren’t LGBT.”
  • “You should quit trying to ruin the happiness of married people.”
  • “Just because YOU aren’t married, it doesn’t mean others aren’t deserving of love.”
  • “I feel sorry for you, it must be hard watching everyone else get started on their life while yours goes nowhere.” Yes, that is a real quote.
  • “You don’t need support.”
  • “I think you should quit your career since you think you need a spouse.” Yes, that’s been said to me.
  • “God’s love is all you need.” I don’t see you lining up to give up your spouse and kids so God’s love is all you need.
  • “I didn’t meet my husband until I was 31! Just keep holding on!” Meanwhile, you don’t meet anyone ever.
  • “Oh, I was single for 1 year before I met my husband, and it was SO HARD.”
  • “Maybe you should stop talking about singleness, you are way too fixated on this.”
  • “If you just give it to God, he will bring someone.”
  • “You just have to surrender.”
  • “Marriage isn’t easy; there have been times when we almost got divorced.”
  • “Did you hear so-and-so got married?
  • “They had to make their decisions together from a young age, and they both changed as people throughout that time. That’s hard.”
  • “You get to move wherever you want!”
  • “If you choose to get married….” Wouldn’t I like to have a choice in this.
  • “I have a support system! I have my husband, my mom, I got married when I was 21. He was there at the beginning of my career when I really needed someone.”
  • “You need to have a support system.” Cool, I’ve tried, no one is willing to step up to the plate.
  • “You need to move across the country if you aren’t meeting people where you are!” Because that sounds like a healthy idea.
  • “I understand you have a career, but you need to sacrifice it and support me through college even though I wasn’t there to support you.”
  • “You shouldn’t expect someone to have the same education as you.”
  • “You expecting support is too much.”
  • “You may have a career that needs support, but you are a woman, so you aren’t entitled to that.”
  • “Egalitarianism doesn’t mean you serve where you are gifted. It means if you both have a career, you also get to take care of the kids, too. You are a woman.”
  • “If being egalitarian doesn’t work for you, the problem isn’t the system. The problem is you.”
  • “If complementarianism doesn’t work for you, the problem isn’t the system, the problem is you.”
  • “I get this. I’ve been married for 10 years, but my husband works far from home. I get to talk to him on the phone each day.”
  • “You’re wrong.”

 

I will never understand the complete lack of empathy toward single adults. The church is terrible to us. We are going through everything married people go through, but alone. We don’t have another income to rely on. We don’t have support or anyone to even talk to. We pay double for everything. You don’t get milk for half price because it’s only you. You’re buying that whole thing, and wasting it, so say goodbye to your money. People give you platitudes like the list above.