Over the past few months, I’ve been fascinated, excited and occasionally dismayed by the ongoing discussion around deconstruction. As I argued in a previous post, deconstruction is often a necessity for the thinking believer, but that doesn’t mean it comes without pitfalls. For me, deconstruction is only half a job if not followed by reconstruction, leading to the establishment of a meaningful, peaceful practice of faith.
What’s the purpose of deconstruction?
Put simply, the purpose of deconstruction is to shake off poor, inherited ideas about God and replace them with a truer, kinder and more authentically acquired understanding of his nature. I’m yet to meet the person for whom de/reconstruction led them to the conclusion that God is nastier than they thought. De/reconstruction then, is a journey towards God as the source of all love, rather than away from him.
If de/reconstruction is about finding God, then it makes sense to walk out this journey in his wonderful company. This is where I am occasionally dismayed, reading articles and comments from folk who not only challenge bad ideas about God but throw the baby out with the bathwater. They stop praying, stop worshipping, stop meditating on the scriptures, stop fellowshipping, replacing all of this with the consumption of ‘progressive’ material that tears down far more than it builds up.
The outcome of this is inevitable – drifting away from God. It is ludicrous to think we can understand God better by distancing ourselves from him.
Drop your anchor in the Lord’s presence
For me, the best safeguard a person can put in place is a regular spiritual practice, whether that be sitting in silence, ‘listening’ to God, singing and praying, meditating, dwelling on passages of scripture, jogging with your mind turned towards God, mindfulness, or whatever! Any kind of regular practice will ground you while you ask the big questions.
I’m a bit of a traditionalist in this. Years in the Charismatic movement taught me to bathe in the presence of God in tangible, transformative ways. I sing, use spiritual gifts, and meditate on passages of scripture, while listening to God and giving him my all. In most ways, de/reconstruction hasn’t changed my spiritual practice, and why should it? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
That said, if you’ve moved away from certain practices in order to question them, then it’s best to find an alternative.
The value of meditation
One of the most important lessons I ever learned was how to meditate, and I don’t mean meditating in the word of God (though that is a practice I cling to and adore). I mean actual factual meditation, using relaxation exercises to still the mind and then focussing on a profound connection with my surroundings.
Many people do everything they can to avoid stillness because they don’t want to face themselves. I strongly suspect that some of the world’s highest achievers are only so because they’ve got ants in their pants and avoid stillness at all costs. That is a miserable way to live.
In moments of stillness, the twittering thoughts and fears we try to suppress rise to the surface, and it can be tempting to push them under and rush back to busyness, but these are the very thoughts we need to face if we want to grow. Instead of fleeing your own mind, try sitting with those thoughts. Accept them, and accept the feelings they arouse in you. Soon enough, your incredible mind will find ways to deal with them, if you give it a chance. It’s amazing how the mind soothes and even heals itself when in a deeply relaxed state.
Another benefit of meditation is connection. In the moment of connection, especially connection to nature, we lower the boundaries of self (ego) and understand we are part of the world around us. I often sit by the canal at the end of my garden and tell myself a simple truth:
“I’m not observing this, I’m part of this.”
That simple thought changes my state, making me feel simultaneously less and more important; less because I’m conscious of being a mere part of something larger than me, and more because that something is far greater than I will ever be. In the diminishing of ego, we find true significance. If meditation is of interest to you, I’ve written of this in more detail in a previous post.
Walk closely with the Holy Spirit
It’s impossible to de/reconstruct in a healthy way without relying on the leading of the Holy Spirit. As stated above, the purpose of de/reconstruction is to find God, so it makes sense to cling to Him throughout.
Our connection to God is through the Holy Spirit. Jesus was abundantly clear it was better that he leave his disciples, because the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost would fill them all with his presence and power. Whether conservative or progressive, we are utterly dependant on the Spirit of God for every aspect of the life of faith.
One of the problems I see with progressive Christianity is that many of its adherents went straight from conservative Evangelicalism, which is spiritually and intellectually dissatisfying, to progressivism, which though intellectually satisfying, doesn’t necessarily bring closeness with God. That’s why you see far more ex-conservative progressives than you do ex-charismatic progressives.
The Charismatic believer, if they get properly stuck in, is likely to know greater intimacy and connection with God, along with more vivid experience of his leading and power. De/reconstruction might still be necessary, but with greater closeness to the Guide, the outcome is going to be better. I realise this will be offensive to some, but I also believe it to be true.
As a young man, I sought God with great fervour. I believed the words of the Bible, which told me God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him, and underwent a radical transformation over the course of several years. The starting point was conservative evangelicalism, which discouraged engagement with the Spirit of God, labelling Charismatic believers as ‘dodgy’ or even ‘of the Devil’. The end of the journey was one of abiding satisfaction, flowing from a tangible, rich and powerful daily experience of the presence of God. I must have led fifty or more people to the Lord, saw them filled with the Spirit, witnessed miracles and healings, delivered powerful and specific prophecies, and bathed in the transforming love of God.
I was poor but became rich, because God is true to his promises. To this day, I believe that God would have each of us know him far more deeply than we can ask or imagine.
Dig your own well
Reading your favourite Christian author (whether Evangelical or Progressive) isn’t going to draw you closer to God. They won’t dig your well for you. There’s only one way to know the closeness of God, and that is to commit yourself to spiritual practice. Have you drifted away from God? Do you know his voice and feel his love?
If you feel far from God, I assure you he wants you to have every blessing under Heaven, starting with a closer experience of his companionship. What small, regular practice draws you? What do you feel you can do? When you know the answer, bring it before God and commit to it. Tell him why you’re doing it and what you want to happen as a result. I can promise you from personal experience, that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.
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