God gave me an interesting picture the other night, during a discussion about the origins and history of my walk with Him. I met with a couple other trusted Christians and an atheist/agnostic friend to discuss our personal stories about how we reached this point in our lives, and as I began to share my story, this is the image I saw.
Much of my Christian theology appeared to me as a large heavy tub or basket full of dusty stone or metal relics, about six or seven inches in height. I use “relic” in the same sense as Indiana Jones handled “relics” as an archeologist who seemed to specialize in religious figurines: not just something old, but more specifically something old that seems to be mysteriously imbued with religious power. Note that it’s not “magical” or “holy” power, but “religious” power, including the human aspects of that systematic set of practices, and not necessarily including some righteous Godly blessing and power.
That picture instantly captured my attention, as a perfect illustration of what I’ve been feeling for months.
Those relics were once handed to me in that basket, and I was told that faith consisted of holding on tightly to that weighty load, without wavering, and without losing any of them.
But instead of that definition, I am finding that true faith is actually trusting in the God supposedly portrayed by those relics, not trusting in the relics themselves or my grasp on them. Faith is laboriously and patiently pulling out and examining each and every one, dusting it off, learning its history and story, determining if it actually represents God’s truth, or simply is someone else’s relic or even idol, and ultimately deciding if it is meant to be something I personally retain and then own for myself.
Instead of a weight in my arms, making me responsible for sustaining my faith, every single relic is another opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit to reveal to me God’s truth or man’s assumptions.
Every one requires individual care and attention.
Understanding many of them require interacting with history and Biblical sources and scholars and original languages and cultures.
In the end, I will ultimately have my own basket of my own statuettes, but shiny and polished and honored and loved and approved and proven valuable, no longer dusty and owned by someone else. Many of them may already be in my current basket, but until I have examined and accepted each and every one, even though I hold that basket, they are not yet mine.
So there is no value in simply standing and diligently holding the heavy weight of those old dusty unpolished relics, groaning under their weight. That is merely religious activity in the hopes of pleasing whoever handed them to me. I sense that God is not pleased in such activity, and the praise of man for that effort is not interesting to me.
Instead I must please the One Who those relics purport to reflect and honor. And that is an activity that must be undertaken solely between myself and my Father God, with no concern for man’s approval.
- I may in fact throw out quite a few of those relics. That’s sure to disappoint people in my life.
- I may brush off enough sand and dust and coating that some of them look nothing like they did at first. Some in my life will be confused as my conclusions won’t match theirs.
- And as the Holy Spirit inspires and teaches me, other brand new relics I will add myself to my own basket, that those around me might wonder about, or even reject.
Certainly, religious tradition and history can and should inform me. But in this season, I’m actually finding that tradition and history are not at all what I was led to believe, and as a result quite a few of those relics are proving to be mere clay or dust, of little or no intrinsic worth to me. Others, long neglected at the bottom of the basket, are proving to be quite valuable and deserving of far more honor than they were given, by those who handed me this dusty basket.
I will never show myself approved by the mere act of carrying around that tub or basket full of someone else’s dusty idols or relics. I will, however, show myself approved by studying and then diligently handling the word of truth with regard to each and every precept, each and every word, and each and every doctrine.
And this ultimately is the nature of “deconstruction” – a careful examination of someone else’s relics that I had merely assumed were mine.
One final thought: just as I’m learning that my basket must be my own, I cannot ever hand my basket off to another, insisting to them that “faith” is defined by them adopting my basket as their own. I need to teach those under my care to pay such diligent attention to their own relics. I must even admit that I may be wrong, and not wince when I see them take a relic that I treasured, and decide it isn’t theirs. Instead, I will choose to rejoice in the exercise of their own faith as they allow the Lord to lead them through the same process I’m going through right now. Because as they work through that process, I trust that the Lord will reveal Himself to them, just as He’s revealing Himself to me in this season.
And thus my process continues. I invite you to join me. Ask yourself, is your basket of faith relics truly yours, or merely a responsibility handed to you to strain to hold in your own strength? Can you choose to set aside expectations that others have placed in your arms? God will meet you, I’m certain.
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver implements, but also implements of wood and of earthenware, and some are for honor while others are for dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be an implement for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work (2 Timothy 2:20-21 NASB).