Among the many reasons someone might seek out spiritual direction or spiritual guidance (terms I use interchangeably), one might be that they’re facing a challenge or transformation in the faith they’ve long held near and dear. They’re going through what’s called religious deconstruction, and may be seeking reorientation or reconstruction.
Many factors can accelerate deconstruction in someone’s faith. We learn a new perspective that defies what we once took for granted. We witness misuse or abuse of authority by those who claimed to be acting on God’s behalf. We find that institutions and abstractions just aren’t aiding our own experiential journey the way they once might have. All of these factors and more could apply. In any case, the temple we once knew has crumbled, and now we find ourselves cast out into the wilderness.
Great sorrow, anger, confusion, anxiety, and loneliness can accompany this experience. There has been a dissolving of illusion, a loss of trust, an exile from home and relationship. And this severance is rarely clean – it’s messy and fraught with frayed tethers still lingering, and this can add to the turmoil and pain. We feel alienated from the community and practices that once offered connection and structure. We try to cope with erosion of our theological framework, which once seamlessly enabled our understanding of and communion with God. We may even find ourselves questioning God’s very presence in this wilderness.
Fortunately, God is no less present now than before. In fact, God is actually more present to you now, just in a different, subtler way, and so too you might actually more present to God. One way of seeing it, is that God has swept away the noise and clamor of the religious life, so that you can now hear God’s quiet voice within you. While we are indeed called to participate in Sacred community, practices, and institutions, our first and primary calling is to participate in the relationship our individual Soul has with its Creator. We are each invited to dance one-on-one with God, though as with any time we learn to dance, the process will feel clumsy and uncoordinated before it feels graceful.
God has made you for unique and important reasons, and led you every step of the way, even to the place you are now. The Creator knows you and is now calling you by name, toward the deeper, truer spiritual life, toward spiritual reconstruction.
What exactly does this spiritual life and reconstruction look like? To learn more, I recommend reading a few of my other blog posts. I should mention in this post, though, what the spiritual life and reconstruction don’t entail:
You don’t somehow become a heretic. You can still – truthfully – call yourself what you once did (e.g. a Christian) if that name calls to you, no matter what anyone else thinks. If you know in your heart what and who you are, nobody has the authority to undermine that. Even if you don’t feel certain, even if you now have serious questions and qualms, you can trust God’s embrace of you, which is unconditional (and unpreventable by any naysayer). In fact, by wrestling with God in such an intimate way, you are more vulnerable to Divine love, and may actually have more claim to your religious identity than ever before!
You are not excommunicated. Every house of worship – every house period – belongs to God, and God welcomes all people everywhere, unconditionally. You are never outside God’s love, care, and understanding. If your old house no longer welcomes you, that is the fault of human folly, and you can bet that God awaits you at another, holier house.
And you are not alone. I hope I can help you find new footing in your spiritual life, and I hope to support you as you connect with mentors, companions, and community who can journey with you into deeper spiritual belonging. For better or worse, you’re already in good company: over the last few generations, religious involvement has been declining, while spiritual curiosity has actually been growing. This potential hasn’t fully materialized as an influx of new or renewed institutions… yet. But you could be part of igniting this movement, by seeking out – or starting – a new, exciting venue for communal spiritual reconstruction! Someday soon, religions might even get the message, adapt, and come to embrace more of our Souls, the way God does.
New and better grounding, growth, and belonging. New and better attunement to God’s voice within. This is the foundation for new and better building of your faith. This is the foundation for spiritual reconstruction. Will you join me in it?
Image credits: #1; #2 - Rick Beckel