Unwrapping His Presence

There’s a word that’s been buzzing about this past year: deconstruction. As in: “taking a “massive inventory of [your] faith, tearing every doctrine from the cupboard and turning each one over in [your] hand” (Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans p. 50).

While this may seem in vogue for 2020, people have been deconstructing for centuries. Perhaps it’s why we have over 200 denominations in the United States alone. Or why Martin Luther pinned his 95 “Theses” on the door of the Catholic church. 

Wasn’t Jesus the biggest deconstructer of them all? The Phariasees had quite a handle on the law and alas the lives and necks of every Jew until Jesus came along and knocked it all down like a house of cards on proverbial sand. 

It wasn’t the sinner Jesus hated. They (I) are why he came in the first place. No. He hated what the Pharisees had made of their faith and the impossibility to practice it. Jesus came to make all things new. To set the crooked backs of women crippled under the law straight again. To give everyone a seat at the table. A table set by Him, not men. 

People disagree. People argue scripture and its context. People teach from their own upbringing, viewpoint, leaning or agenda. People get offended when said upbringing, viewpoint, leaning, or agenda is questioned. People want to be right. People don’t like hard questions. People don’t want to think about something new from a different view.

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Over the past couple of years I have been learning and listening and leaning in to what God has been showing me. While God has not changed as he is steadfast and never changing, my thoughts and understanding have. This is what this deconstruction stuff is all about. It’s not the destruction of my faith but the gutting and reconstruction of it. 

It’s what allows me to have new thoughts and ideas that God is teaching me. It’s what allows me to ask questions, to say if parts and pieces of scripture are hard, to wonder what in the world God was thinking when he allowed this or that to happen. It’s what permits me to show all my feelings instead of believing the person who told me I cannot be angry with God…it’s disrespectful. 

It’s searching scriptures for answers to my questions. And questioning how scripture was presented in a sermon, a teaching, a radio program, around the dinner table, or from those who use their pulpit power to abuse. 

In the very first garden, the serpent asked Eve the question, Did God really say…? He meant it to question the Creator of all things. But what happens when I challenge, not God, but man with the same question? When I can wonder if God really did say…then list the things that are meant to exclude, put in place, keep chained to the law, keep silent, in the kitchen, out of leadership or ministry. 

Women are to be silent in the church. 

Did God really say…? 

Women are to be doormats to their abusive husbands. 

Did God really say…? 

Don’t heal on the Sabbath. 

Did God really say…?

You’ll only receive blessings if you are in church every time the doors are open. 

Did God really say…? 

Don’t drink alcohol. 

Don’t play cards. 

Don’t. 

Don’t. 

Don’t. 

People have been searching the scriptures to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11) for centuries. Sounds a lot like Did God really say… 

Wouldn’t that tick off the enemy if we took the question he used to trick Eve with so long ago, the one that caused labor pains in birth and weeds in the garden, and instead set some folks free. What if we turn the table and used it against him? 

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Long before cable television and the plethora of fixer upper type shows one could watch on a 24-hour loop, there was a once-a-week show on PBS called This Old House. Our newlywed selves would watch and learn and dream of possibilities. We learned to look past the cosmetic eyesores like carpet, paint colors, even certain walls and room configurations as those could all be changed, ripped out, torn down. 

What you needed were good bones and a firm foundation. 

I liken my faith journey to a good foundation with some space for tearing down walls that didn’t belong, paint that is out of date, carpet that needn’t be shaggy or orange. 

When I first started seeing this deconstruction buzz word all over social media, I was curious about what all the buzz was about. Once I started reading, I thought to myself I’ve been doing this for the past couple of years. Oh wait, for longer than that. 

Mine began when my oldest daughter came home and announced she was either atheist or agnostic but did NOT believe in our God…of that she was sure. 

I responded like any Momma who has raised their kids in church. What are you talking about?! That is not the way you were raised! 

I was standing at a crossroads. I could keep her in the same box I grew my faith up in, which I had wallpapered and decorated so darn cute. I could let fear ride shotgun and drive my need for control. Or I could sit with her, talk with her, ask her questions and allow space for her to ask hers. I could walk with her as she discovered for herself this Jesus I love so much. 

I chose the latter. I’m so glad I did. 

5 years later in 2016 she decided to follow Jesus. We’ve been Unwrapping His Presence ever since.

It wasn’t always pretty and I very often answered with an I don’t know (it’s amazing when your own faith is questioned and you have to come up with answers other than that’s just what we do/believe and have no scripture back up) …but it was the start of my own asking the question, did God really say?

It was the beginning of leaning into the mystery of God, of the being still, of listening, learning and trusting. It was being okay with sitting in the unknown. It was me keeping my mouth shut, simply loving my daughter and watching God do some pretty awesome things. 

We continue to ask each other hard questions, wander in the wonder and watch God as he watches his daughters unwrap his presence.

I find that when fear is lurking in the shadows, I’m hanging on too tight to old beliefs or control or something in me that is a lie. 

Fear says I have to keep God in my tidy neat box. 

Faith says I can’t wait to watch God move. 

Fear says I have to control everything. 

Faith says God is in control. 

Fear says if I don’t who will. 

Faith says God will supply all needs.

Fear says keep busy. 

Faith says slow down.

Fear says hustle. 

Faith says rest. 

Fear says I have to do before I can be.

Faith says it’s already been done. 

Fear says that’s a dangerous thing to say, you’ll be without volunteers. People of faith will become lazy and lethargic. That’s why we must shove the do in people’s faces. Make them feel guilty. It’s why I love this quote:

“Ignatian discernment, then, isn’t so much about what to do but about who to be. It’s about becoming a person in tune with the movements that lead toward God. The doing will flow from the being.” (God’s Voice Within by Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ page 6)

I’m seeing this in my own life. My being is what drives my doing. Not the other way around like so many hammer home. 

I like to think of deconstruction as an unwrapping of His presence, of spending time with Him doing nothing but being, of finding the treasure He not only has for me but also that He is. 

John Mark Comer explains that deconstruction is nothing new. Jesus and others use scripture to critique the world corruption of the church. But then there is another type of deconstruction for western millennials who use the world to critique scriptures authority over the church. The former is the way of Jesus. The latter is not. 

He goes on to say that deconstruction is the middle of maturation. Not the end goal. Deconstruction comes in three stages: 

Stage one: construction. It’s what we’re taught about faith. Things are black and white with no shades of grey. (Think You weren’t raised that way!) No questions are asked. I wonder if they are even allowed at this stage? 

Stage two: deconstruction. You realize there are some problems within the construction. You see others’ faith or way to believe. You begin to read scripture for yourself and wonder. So you ask questions. 

Stage three: reconstruction. You study. You learn. You listen. You discern. You rebuild your faith. You unwrap His presence. You see Him more and more. You feel Him in the dark places. He allows questions in wide spaces. (I added my own thoughts to each stage from my own experience.)

It’s a beautiful build. 

It’s a lovely gift to unwrap His presence. 

That’s what I discovered in 2021. 

It’s what I want more of in 2022. 

For me. 

For you

Let’s ask about each other’s stories of faith. Let’s not be afraid to ask hard questions or sit with each other during hard seasons. Let’s sit in the mystery of it all. Let’s look for Him in the pew as we take communion, in the park as we hear sweet giggles, in the least of these and the little things. His presence is in the Bible study at your local church as well as the dishes you are washing, the laundry you are doing or the babies you are feeding. Let’s discover who we are to be before we feel the need to do. Let’s have an absolute blast as we unwrap His presence! 

Stay wild my friends! 

kw