when you arrive
we will be light
bread and water
the table is set and the door opened
come and take your place among us
free me of the belief
that you are only faithful from a distance
and speak with me
in the unharried language of animals
who from far off lie in wait for us
with their unadulterated hunger
When I travel for speaking events, one of the first things I’m often asked is if I am an introvert or an extrovert. You’d think that’s a simple question, but for someone who grew up in the Southern Baptist evangelical church, it brings up a lot of difficult emotions.
The church spaces I grew up in rewarded people pleasing. They rewarded those who were willing to put on a happy face and go through the motions required of such a religion. We were faithful to prayer, to purity, to reading the bible, to saving souls, and to smiling while we do it.
I grew up in a church with beautiful, kind people, but no one taught me to ask questions. No one taught me that things might not be as they seem, that God might be someone who gives room to really difficult questions.
So, I brought myself up with extrovert-like actions, a social butterfly who could buzz around with small talk and laughter, but who earnestly longed for quiet conversations with big questions over hot cups of coffee.
As an adult, I’ve joined multitudes of others who are deconstructing their faith, and it’s difficult as hell. The constant work of asking questions, of giving voice to doubts, seeing things that cannot be unseen– it is utterly exhausting, and positively necessary.
The night before this last Easter Sunday, I watched old Easter videos online, triumphant productions with men’s quartets and choirs proclaiming that Christ is risen. I was laughing at the things I naively believed as a child, but I went to bed with a sense of mourning what was once such a simple faith that I no longer claim to have. I carried that grief into Easter morning, letting all my questions roll around inside me.
I didn’t wish people a Happy Easter. I thought about both what deconstruction has given to me and has taken from me. I thought about how my view of Jesus has changed so much throughout the years, and most of the time, I don’t know what to believe.
Some weeks, we cry because things cannot be simple, the way they once were. Grief, doubt, and the realization that faith is complicated– it feels like it ruins everything, for all time, and we will never find peace in faith or religion ever again. It leaves us terrified of what the future terrain of faith looks like, an unknown land we do not understand and are not prepared for.
The days, months, years of deconstruction wane on and on, and most of the time, we are not content there. We are tired. We want something to reconstruct that will be better than what once was.
Perhaps in these moments, we need to voice our questions to remember that we are not alone. This has held so much power in social media spaces, where we find friends outside our physical communities who are asking the same questions we are asking. When we say, “I have doubts, and they hurt, and I don’t know the way forward,” someone steps up beside us and says, “I had those questions too, and I’m still here.”
So my hope is that we talk about how hard deconstruction is, how difficult our questions are, that we can say out loud, “I miss the simplicity of a doubtless faith,” while listening to the poets and prophets of our time remind us that we cannot give up the work.
And just maybe what we realize along the way is that “the table is set and the door opened,” as Said says. We realize that both the doubtless, childlike faith and the wandering, weary, questioning faith lead us to a God who takes all of it and responds with fresh wind and rain, with sunsets and a few friends along the way.
And suddenly we realize, all these winding roads, all these roadmaps that seem to lead to nowhere, they actually lead us to the thing that has always been.
Love was always the destination.
I am writing
we are closer to the truth
in our vulnerability
than in our safe certainties.