“I think I just need to take a step back. From all of this. I am so exhausted from all this Christian stuff. I need to breathe.” 

I hold my head in my hands. Tears stream down my cheeks. My husband wraps me in his arms. 

What will people think when I tell them that I’ve taken a break from Church?

Are non-church goers still considered to be Christians? 

What does it even mean to be a Christian these days?

“Take all the time you need,” he whispers. I cry into his chest. 

Who will bring us a casserole when we decide to have a baby?


The Lonely Journey of Deconstructing My Faith

That cold spring day in April 2020, I made the decision to embark upon what would be a lonely journey of deconstructing my faith. 

After many months and years of listening to leading Christians’ personal opinions disguised as the inherent gospel truth, and after witnessing many people, time after time, being mistreated spiritually and emotionally by Christian leaders, I had reached the point where I had enough. 

I saw Christianity as a religion defined more by what it stood against, rather than what it stood for. 

If you’re a Christian, then you wouldn’t vote ____________.

As a Christian, you shouldn’t be asking for a raise or a promotion at work. Ambition is not godly. 

If you trusted God, Rachel, then you would agree with the decision I’ve made and not ask questions. 

I needed to take a break from the religious legalism I had experienced. I had survived it, but it had left me gasping for air. I needed to learn how to breathe again. 

So for five months, I stopped attending church, my Thursday night small group, and anything that resembled organized religion. I read books about Christian culture. I listened to podcasts about spirituality. I slowly worked my way through my Christian worldview and dissected various beliefs ranging from gender equality, free will, to how to discern the will of God. They were intense months of solo prayer walks, rambling conversations with long-suffering friends, and reading as many books on deconstruction that I could get my hands on. 

I had questions. And I knew that God was big enough to handle them. 

My questions didn’t come from a place of disbelief. Honestly, I was spiritually weary. Like the rest of the world in 2020, my soul was exhausted. I needed to hit “pause.” As I watched close friends and my husband, who were supportive of my decision, keep showing up at the church door week after week, I looked on from the side-lines. That’s where I first discovered how lonely deconstruction can be. 

The infamous ‘D’ word has become a bit of a taboo subject in Christian circles, so I think it’s important to clarify what I mean when I talk about deconstruction. For some, deconstruction might look like critically interrogating the core beliefs we’ve been taught since childhood in order to analyze their truthfulness and impact. It can look like the iterative process of rebuilding by means of tearing down certain beliefs. For others, deconstruction might look like a break from religion altogether resulting in the death of one’s individual faith. 

For me, I wasn’t walking away from my belief in Jesus. While I believe that all of us can bring our human doubts and endless questions before God, I did not doubt his existence or his goodness. I knew he had a plan for me and my life. I have seen him work in both the small and significant moments. 

But to “take a break?” Wasn’t that, like, heresy? 

Maybe it looked like heresy to some but, for me, my “break” was my ticket towards spiritual renewal. It gave me the space to tear down unhelpful paradigms —paradigms like some found in mainstream Christian culture that I had believed and kept me stuck, silenced, and weighed down by shame.  

Like the time I was told by a teacher at my Christian high school to cover up because my lace camisole was showing underneath my shirt, and the time I was sent home to change my sweater because it was, “too tight,” showing my womanly shape. Or the time a Bible study teacher at a local church informed me that being a woman meant that certain roles in the Church were off-limits to me. Or the time I was instructed by a Christian leader that my career ambitions were a sign that I was, “not submitting to God’s will.

Throughout every single one of those experiences, I felt like mainstream Christian culture had punished me for being two things: a woman and an individual. Whether it was the strict dress code at my Christian high school, or American evangelical culture’s take on modesty culture, I was taught to hide my womanly body to, “keep my brother from stumbling.

My male classmates’ lack of mental self-control was somehow my burden to bear. Christian teaching on purity and sex perpetuated my ever-growing feelings of shame about my body and sexuality—two things that God had created. It would take years for me to come to a place of wholeness where I could accept my curvy figure. 


What Deconstructing Faith Taught Me about the Church

Asking questions about Christianity sometimes landed me in hot water with the Church. In the spirit of “dying to one’s self” (Galatians 5:24), I was encouraged to self-abandon, sometimes ignoring my own gut feelings about certain people and specific teachings.

I had succumbed to the lie that God would not look kindly on my myriad of questions about his divinity, my human experience, and where the two collided. The very thing that God instilled inside of me—my intuition empowered by the Holy Spirit—could not be trusted because doubt signaled a lack of faith.

Over the last few years, my local Church in Edinburgh has provided a safe space for me to learn more about the Holy Spirit, specifically how to wisely discern what God is saying to me. This practice of hearing God’s voice as well as trusting my intuition has taken a few years to refine into a spiritual habit. But I am learning how to tune into God’s voice. I could not be more grateful to my local church for their wisdom and for providing a safe and nurturing environment where I have grown in this particular spiritual practice. 

Thank Jesus for the Church, his imperfect and beautiful bride. That’s ultimately what deconstruction revealed to me most of all—that the Church is a body of imperfect humans. To expect anything other than imperfection is a recipe for hurt and disappointment. Like my own human body—tainted by zits, cellulite and stretch marks—so too the Church is marred by ugly imperfections. But it’s the only body you have, Rachel. 

The Church is not just the only body we have—it’s the body Jesus laid down his life for. Seeing the Church through this lens has helped me tremendously in my healing journey—to both give and receive forgiveness for where we’ve got it wrong as Christians, myself included. 


What Deconstruction Taught Me about My Faith

Deconstructing my faith reminded me a lot of when I bought my house in Edinburgh. It is an old flat from the late 1800s and full of Victorian character. There was just one problem though—the whole place needed rewiring. Rewiring is a messy and costly process. It is purposefully destructive—dust and plaster gets everywhere. The place resembled more of a building site than a family home during the first days of renovations. 

But much like my house needed a bit of TLC, so too did my faith in God. Steeped in rich tradition, but characterized by outdated lighting fixtures and decaying floorboards, my faith needed some fixing up. Sure, I had “good bones,” but I needed some unhelpful and decayed beliefs removed to make room for something new and more beautiful. 

I had come to realize that I was living under someone else’s misguided opinion of how “good Christians live” rather than living in the freedom that comes with knowing Jesus—freedom from shame. When you live like you are loved, a lot of the heavy legalism stuff fades into irrelevance. That’s what reconstruction showed me. But deconstruction does not end with destruction. Deconstruction always means rebuilding something new. Beauty from ashes. 


What Deconstructing Faith Taught Me about God

What no one tells you about deconstructing faith is the feelings of shame and grief that come with it. I felt like a part of me was dying and that I was witnessing it all from the outside looking in. I was both actively engaging with the process and watching myself engaging, desperately screaming, “Stop, don’t do it!”

Knowing what I know now, I desperately wish I could go back in time and give my younger self permission to ask the hard questions. Because, the truth is, God can handle the hard questions. They do not undermine or detract from who God is. Instead, our hard questions invite us to venture deeper into a more meaningful relationship with our Dad. 

What the process of deconstruction taught me—about the Church, my faith, and God—are precious lessons of restoration. They are weathered floorboards that have been sanded and refinished. Old tables and chairs that have been upcycled and painted afresh. I could have never arrived in this place where my faith was my own—stripped back, authentic and beautiful—had I not journeyed through the frightening places of doubt and searching. Doubt and searching are the great wilderness, but God met me there. Because that’s what our Heavenly Father does. He ventures with us into the wild places because he loves us too much to let us go.