It’s not like I thought I knew everything there is to know about faith, the Bible, Jesus, and God. But I grew up in a very conservative environment with a knowledgeable dad, and an entire lifetime of attending church, and Sunday school. Plus, that whole graduating with a Bible degree thing… I didn’t think I needed to let go of anything. I didn’t think I needed a deconstruction and rebuilding of my faith.
And in all that upbringing, my parents were faithful to explain to me that I do not know everything, and I never can. Heck, even one of my college professors from the pastoral department reminded students in just about every class that we’re not omniscient: “We all teach heresy at some point.”
For most of my life, I lived in the fear of learning that somehow, I was wrong. I was conservative, and that meant I was in the right. That’s what my churches taught. Their doctrine was correct, and anything that questioned their doctrine was suspect and wrong.
However, as I’ve grown older and become separated from the uber-conservative dogmas of the Southern Baptist Convention, and lived in a liberal city that loves art, freedom, people, and hates racism and misogyny, I’ve been slammed upside the face with the reality that the church dogma is spouting a lot of things I no longer agree with. Without the help of seminary (where so often, we’re told that deconstruction of faith happens), I was already dismantling my beliefs and examining them one by one. I still am.
I was afraid to contemplate that the teachings I grew up with could be wrong. If they’re wrong, then who am I? I’ve spent my entire life following them. I’ve spent my entire existence teaching others these same principles and doctrines. Who am I if these aren’t Biblical after all?
When I started hanging out with more people who don’t look like me, think like me, or come out of a history of extreme conservative teaching, I realized that my biggest fears had come about: I had doubts.
Not doubts about God or His existence but doubts about my entire life — my entire upbringing and existence within the conservative Christian faith.
My doubts threatened to tear me apart.
Until I dated an abusive preacher who thought he should have the right to tell me what to eat, what to wear, and when to visit my family in another state.
Once I realized the abuse was happening, I dumped him and shut myself away with different fears — fears for my physical safety. Fears for my health. Fears for my existence. Could I ever get over the constant emotional abuse I’d endured the year before?
The abuse was over. The fears remained. But, oddly enough, the fears I had of that conservative dogma fading were set aside as I realized that the dogma I held to — not necessarily of the church itself — had nearly ruined my life.
I’m a different woman today. I am far less judgmental and far less afraid to hide from the doubts I have had regarding the traditions of human teachings.
That old church dogma told me that women were “strong but not really quite equal” and that meant that I should submit to a man who wasn’t my husband and let him determine my life for me since we might get married.
That old church dogma told me that as a single woman I couldn’t be a missionary, despite all the studies and evidence showing that single women made the most “successful” missionaries throughout history.
That old church dogma told me — usually via the words of some pastor I once had trusted — that I had brought suffering upon myself for willingly dating someone who after months was revealed to be abusive.
You’ll notice something starkly lacking in these mindsets pushed by this old church dogma and my own legalistic views: Jesus Himself and His view of humans.
I’m so grateful that some doubts have crept in. Not just about the traditions of human teachings, but even my own faith. Every day, I can converse with my husband, my best friend, and my fellow church-goers about these doubts and questions, and my faith can grow and change and become the beautiful thing God always intended it to be: A life centered on Him and not on the teachings of broken humans.
Faith is ever-changing, ever-growing. And that means you’re going to have questions. You’re going to have doubts. You’re going to wander down some paths that lead to some weird, sometimes freaky stuff. You might even face the abuse of a man or woman in a dating relationship, or as so often I have found, the abuse of a pastor who thinks he knows God better than you ever could.
Don’t fear doubts. Don’t fear the changing of your faith’s outlook. Hold onto what you know to be true: the message of Salvation — Jesus is the Way, the Truth & the Life — and that God loves you and wants you to love others to demonstrate your love to Him.
The central truths to the faith are what matter, not all the other crap that clings on and weighs you down.As you explore the faith, surround yourself with people who love Jesus — no matter their denomination — and take the journey with them. But don’t fear the loss of your faith. Your faith, if it is genuine, will not be lost to your desire to know the Truth. Since Jesus is the Truth, you’ll be just fine in the long-run.