Transformation is about deconstruction and reconstruction. To transform a plot of land, you tear down what was there before (deconstruction); then you build something new (reconstruction). This is the consistent pattern, and the same pattern that works within us. You must unlearn before you learn, which is why spirituality feels more like a falling than an ascent. It’s the way of unlearning, since the way of learning can only get you so far. Indeed, most of us have to unlearn what we thought life was about: looking good, appearing competent, getting everything right, realizing in the process that we only come to God through our weakness.
Biblical faith is trusting God in the midst of not having all the answers, which is often the most consistent vehicle for experiencing our own weakness. It is Abram journeying to a land he doesn’t know, holding onto promises given by God but having no idea how any of them will pan out. Faith, it turns out, is trusting The Answer even when our comprehension is blinded, in full or in part, to all the little answers we so crave. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer.” This idea can startle us, because in many modern contexts, faith has been replaced wholesale with certainty. The more certain or dogmatic someone is, the more “faith” they are said to have. The irony is that such faith is not faith at all! Oftentimes such certainty is simply a bid to avoid any sort of unpleasant tension or deconstruction which might make us feel powerless and which, therefore, we hate.
Faith, by definition, demands some level of tension and even unknowing, and it always demands deconstruction. After all, we are called by Jesus to “lose our lives.” You can’t be courageous if you aren’t afraid, and you can’t have faith if you’ve got everything sorted out. Once a faith that is based on reducing tension and disorientation becomes ascendant, as it has in so many of our churches, we are no longer trusting in God at all, but simply all the propositions we have built up surrounding God.
The invitation to Biblical faith and faith in Jesus, on the other hand, is not to avoid deconstruction but instead to journey through the inevitable deconstructions that life brings us, trusting that reconstruction comes not through our own power or competency but from the grace and love of God. No wonder the rich are often far from the kingdom of heaven: they’ve got so many levers to try before they give up and fall into the Arms of Mercy! Jesus’ invitation, on the other hand, is to be poor in spirit, fully aware of our weakness, and also confident: We are meant to know that we can trust and follow him because he, too, has walked the path of deconstruction and experienced resurrection. May we, with him, be such a people!