A year ago, I was in Mozambique doing anthropological study of the Yawo people group. Living with a missionary team, gaining insight into long-term missionary life, and spending copious amounts of time in isolation with God led me to discern my calling to long-term cross-cultural work with that people group. It also instigated the long, painful, and necessary process of my evaluating which parts of my worldview are holy and which are lies that my culture has propogated. Intrinsic to this, and arguably more important has been my wrestling with who God really is – what is true, and what are the christian cultural lies that I have automatically believed?
My entire faith has become deconstructed, mainly because I have allowed myself to question God rather than subduing the questions with christian cliches. I have allowed myself to question God, Her character, His knowledge, and Her power. And I’m not going to sugarcoat it: this deconstruction has caused me major distress. It makes me feel isolated from the church, Christian friends, from my religion, and as if I am not a ‘real christian’. Yet, if I never took the courage to evaluate what I really believe, I would never come out the other side with an honest faith. I would not be enabled to hold gentleness and mercy in my heart towards unbelievers. Nor would I have learnt the value in being honest with God and with myself. It is freeing to be to radically vulnerable about my questions with myself. I means I have granted myself permission not to be perfect, and to not know all the answers.
I have reservations about labelling my experience as ‘doubting’. It doesn’t feel like doubting, like there is an absolute truth I am just questioning and will eventually realise is true. It feels like I am starting again from ground zero. I am wrestling with God, rebuilding my faith from His answers to my questions. If I am honest, my experience of God, – empirical evidence – is the only thing I can’t refute. So God and I are putting back together my faith piece by piece. It’s a hopeful process, but I remain afraid that He won’t give me all the answers I crave, particularly about omniscience and omnipotence (doctrines seemingly essential to the faith). And if I don’t really know who God is, how can I share Christ with others?
Each day, as I read the bible and speak with God, my faith is slowly settling and rebuilding again. I am gradually understanding and believing aspects of who the God I have experienced really is. I am trying to understand God apart from culture, apart from mine and apart from the cultures in the bible, but maybe I’m approaching it wrong. Maybe God can never be understood apart from culture, in the same way that Jesus cannot be understood apart from His humanity. Or maybe, it is through the unifying and understanding of culture can we recognise and understand the cultural revelations of God we see in the bible, and indeed how the Holy Spirit herself relates to us.
And so, my faith, after having experienced theological deconstruction, is rebuilding itself through conversations and experiences with God.
Feature image is taken from: https://www.ibelieve.com/slideshows/8-ways-god-speaks-to-you-today-and-every-day.html