I make no apologies for being a theological bridge-burner and for the years I’ve spent both personally and publicly deconstructing my old faith structure.
As a post-evangelical who, like countless others, has been in a slow process of untangling many of the beliefs of my youth, my faith has been in a long season of necessary deconstruction. Those who have left evangelicalism or fundamentalism—especially those of us with deep church trauma– tend to have a special affinity for deconstruction, and rightly so. We were saturated with endless expressions of fear-based theology that permeated not just through our faith, but deep down into our very understandings of self. It left us terrified of God, fearful of the future, and loathing of ourselves.
In this way, how could we not spend long seasons deconstructing the beliefs that negatively impacted so much of our lives? How could we not speak up and articulate this when we finally had the words to do so, in order to help others trapped in the same system?
Deconstructing these elements of our old fear-based faith is certainly good and right if done properly, with the right heart, and with the right motivation. However, for those of us who are now on the outside of that structure, it is dangerous how easy it is to settle into a life of being a bridge burner and only a bridge burner.
Well, let’s be honest: burning something down is a whole lot easier than building something that’s bigger and better to either replace or overshadow it. Sure, it feels really good in the moment to pick up a gas can and those matches—and some people are completely satisfied to look out at the vast, empty horizon that once had a bridge spanning across it, but for others among us the satisfaction from that moment is fleeting…
There’s something I haven’t admitted publicly before, but do in my new book, Unafraid. And that admission is this:
While making my living as a writer and speaker was a beautiful accident I’ll forever be grateful for, I came to realize that I was growing progressively unhappy and more empty by the day. At first, I had no idea what it was– and in reality I’m sure it was several things all at once, but this part I know to be true:
Deconstructing my faith and a hyper focus on why fundamentalism was wrong, left me empty.
It makes sense that it would– I mean, the entire natural result of tearing something down is finding oneself in the empty space where it once stood.
But for me?
When I was finished, I had an acute realization: Even though burning things down is necessary from time to time, I’m just not one of those people who will ever be happy standing in the empty gap where my faith once stood.
Sure, I’m pretty good with a gas can. I’ll even admit it’s kind of fun. But empty space doesn’t make me happy…
Which means, I want to become more of a bridge builder than a bridge burner.
The root of my problem didn’t fully hit me until I was watching some old programs on WWII. After a season of war, destruction, and tearing things down, the West realized that for the world to be able to move forward and put that season of war behind them, it would be time for everyone to chip in and help to rebuild areas that had been destroyed by violence.
This path forward after World War II came to be known as the Marshall Plan, and it paved the way to begin a process of rebuilding throughout Europe. While it was impossible to reproduce everything that had been destroyed, and, in many cases, rebuilding perhaps would not have been a good idea, the United States knew that it was in the best interest of everyone to move forward from a season of destruction into a season of new creation.
Where the United States had just participated in bridge burning, it had come time to put the gas cans down and become the bridge builders, and so they did.
The Bible tells us that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven (Ecc. 3:1), and I suppose that means there’s even a time and place for burning some bridges—deconstructing or destroying things that have outlived their purpose, no longer function properly, or should never have been built in the first place. But like the United States did after World War II, I woke up one morning and realized that I needed to put the gas cans down, and that it was time to build something—something far more beautiful and life-giving than the old structure that once filled that gap.
My prayer for those who have either journeyed with me, or who share a similar journey as mine, but now find themselves dissatisfied at the end of their theological deconstruction, is that you’ll remember this:
Some of us won’t feel fully satisfied or alive until we sit down and realize that we’ve burned down enough, and that what our faith needs most is a Marshall Plan.
On one of the darkest days of my journey I wrote down all the things I didn’t believe anymore– I wrote out the net-result of my bridge burning days.
But then I took it one step further; I decided to help myself get unstuck and asked the most important question: “How do I let this point me to what I actually do believe?
And the answer to that question? Well, that became my book, Unafraid that releases next Tuesday! You can join me on this journey, and preorder your copy right here.