Deconstructing vs Detangling
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Deconstructing vs Detangling

Summary:

I know a lot of people who have deconstructed their faith to the point that they no longer go to church or even believe in God anymore. Deconstruction left them without anything to rebuild. I get it. I’ve been at that same fork in the road, and very nearly took that same path, except I’m not ready to let go of the parts of my faith that are still solid. I need to deconstruct, but I also want to re-construct.

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Before I started writing, I was a seamstress. I worked from my home doing custom dress making, alterations, and theatre costume design. My specialty was bridal/formal alterations. As my client list grew, so did my need for storage. I went to IKEA and chose some Pax wardrobes. The mirrored doors on the corner cabinets gave my clients a better dress fitting experience. The storage space gave me a safe place to put away the gowns and my supplies. It worked really well, but then we moved.  

Because the wardrobes are made of particle board, they don’t respond well to being deconstructed, so we decided to move them without taking them apart. I had purchased the tallest wardrobes for maximum gown space, so it was a little dicey getting them out of the house, onto the truck, and into the next house fully assembled, but we managed it. When we had to move again, this time across the country, we weren’t entirely sure they would survive another move, but we hoped for the best.

The movers could feel them shifting when they loaded the wardrobes onto the truck. They were not willing to take them off the truck and into the new house, for fear of liability if they fell apart. A family friend who was helping us unload climbed into the back of the moving van with his tools and found a way to build in some braces to the back of the largest wardrobes. After examining the braces, the movers agreed to bring it into the house for us. Our friend did a good enough job that those cabinets moved with us across country one more time.

My faith journey is like an IKEA cabinet.

It’s big. It’s important to me. It holds the things I value most. It has served me well over the years, but there have been some significant events in my life, including religious trauma, that have tested my faith, so I am doing some deconstructing. Some pieces of my faith have held strong; others, not so much. Turns out some of what my faith was built with was like particle board – looks real on the outside, but not solid on the inside.

I was raised in a high-control religious culture. Lots of rules and high expectations. They were very big on avoiding “the appearance of evil”. There were rules about conduct and how to dress and the length of boys’ hair because we had to always appear to be righteous. There were rules about entertainment – we didn’t go to movies because it was worldly entertainment. Approved music was classical music or hymns, or soundtracks from musicals. Dancing was a sin. Delayed obedience was disobedience, and disobedience got you punished, and that punishment often involved hitting, slapping, and spanking. Questioning the rules was not allowed because that was questioning religious authority, which was the same as questioning God. This resulted in the construction of a religious façade that made us look perfect on the outside but hid a lot of dysfunction and abuse.

I know a lot of people who have deconstructed their faith to the point that they no longer go to church or even believe in God anymore. Deconstruction left them without anything to rebuild. I get it. I’ve been at that same fork in the road, and very nearly took that same path, except I’m not ready to let go of the parts of my faith that are still solid. I need to deconstruct, but I also want to re-construct.

What if deconstruction isn’t the only way to do this work?

What if we look at it as more of a detangling?

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I once knitted a baby blanket that required a lot of color blocking. It was made from knitted squares, each with a soft fuzzy little white lamb in the middle. I didn’t want to do separate squares, so I adjusted the pattern so I could knit it in one piece, but still have all the squares. Switching between five colors was complicated, and I often had to stop and untangle the yarn.

Untangling yarn requires a great deal of patience. If you pull too hard, the tangles turn into knots that can’t be undone. Sometimes, the tangles and knots in my project couldn’t be straightened out, so they had to be cut. But that’s ok, because I knew how to weave in the cut ends even while introducing a new length of yarn. The finished blanket was beautiful and functional and no one looking at it could tell the yarn had been cut in a few places.

These days my faith journey looks more like detangling than deconstructing.

Some tangles can be smoothed out, sometimes with the help of a trusted spiritual mentor. Some knots have to be cut out and disposed of. That’s ok; God is helping me weave in those loose ends and introduce new threads in a seamless way. So far, it’s looking pretty great. I think it will be beautiful.

Part of my deconstruction/detangling journey involved writing my memoir.

According to a 5-star review on Goodreads, The Ninth Child

 “… is told with intention and is carefully executed. You will laugh as well as cry and if, like me, you were also raised in a fundamentalist Christian church, you will relate to a very great deal of what the narrator experiences. But even after all of it – trauma and abuse and confusion and heartache – you will land with the narrator in a field of hope. Always hope. Forever hope. Even if very small. There is always hope.”

Whether you are deconstructing or detangling, or maybe, like me, doing a bit of both, I hope you know you don’t have to do it alone. I hope you know there will be pieces left over that can be reconstructed and rewoven into something new and strong and beautiful. I know how hard it is, but please don’t give up yet. There is always hope.

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