I walk regularly in a provincial park nestled in the middle of Calgary. About a year ago I came to a wide space in a familiar valley and saw tall metal fences, keeping us out of what once was a field of tall prairie grasses. Soon, big diggers and trucks came down the hill and started to work. Every week the hole in the ground got wider and deeper. The displaced earth was made into a new mountain. Enormous cement pipe fittings were trucked in and piled into pyramids. Huge machines buzzed and rumbled constantly.
The work is still going on, and it hurts to see. What once was so beautiful is torn up. It is muddy and desolate. It is marked by cement blocks, dirty trucks and cloudy, standing water.
And above it all a sign has been erected that says “Community Drainage Improvements.” All of this upheaval in the park is so that the storm water drainage from the communities above the valley works better.
A good reason
This work is important. My own home has been flooded by the poor drainage in this area. The pipes underneath the ground needed to be graded better, fixed, and the old infrastructure reimagined. I don’t begrudge the work. It is useful and good. There are systems that our cities and communities are built on that require constant revitalization for them to work their best for more people. Knowing all this helps.
Even so, my girls were walking with me one day and the younger one said, “I know it’s for a good reason, but I still don’t like it.”
And as I’ve passed this scene day after day, it has occurred to me that this is a strikingly good image of life on the road of faith. The valley is undergoing deconstruction. Not for deconstruction’s sake, but so that a new construction – new pipes, better pipes – can go in. This is what it looks like when what is underneath gets brought up to the surface for a good re-working. It looks like a mess.
If you’ve lived through a deconstruction of your faith, you will get this image.
The deconstruction happens in so many different ways for so many different people.
If you’ve been called out for assumptions and decisions you made about others that they no longer put up with, you will get this image. If you’ve stuck around through the collapse of a community, you will get this image. If you’ve loved learning from a leader who has been caught up in #ChurchToo, you will get this image. If you’ve recently realized just how much privilege you actually have in this culture, you will get this image. If you’ve come to see that what you were once certain about in the life of faith is no longer bearing fruit, you’ll get this image.
Maybe you are in the middle of this tearing up, walking around keenly feeling the shook-up ground you are living on.
When the old is wholly dug out, loaded onto a truck and driven to the dump, it’s not pretty. Everything is exposed. It hurts to look at. And you will find yourself wishing that everything could be back to the way it was.
I talk with a lot of people whose faiths and lives are in the middle of “being deconstructed.” It is painful. And confusing and disturbing for the people around them. But something stronger and better and truer is being put into place. The earth will be put back to rights. And here is the thing to remember – it’s not our work, this deconstruction. It’s God’s.
This work of digging up what is no longer working and putting in something that will work better, lead to more wholeness and more grace for more people, for all of creation, is good. This is God’s work. And it’s not a once and for all work – it’s ongoing. It’s for us. It’s for the world. And it’s his.
Do not be afraid.