When There’s Nothing Left To Do But Burn It All Down, Two Years Later

March 29, 2021
The post below, from 2019, was in my Memories feed this morning. Two years ago I was just on the cusp of deconstruction, feeling the stability of everything I thought was solid and the truth crack and crumble beneath my feet, once holy ground that turned to quicksand, threatening to choke and suffocate.
(Yes, I know the parable. Turns out the faith I was taught and conditioned to hold without question was the very thing that was swallowing me whole.)

As I read through 2019 Ticcoa’s words and remembered the freedom of that conversation with my friend, I was reminded of the cleansing breaths that come from not holding back, the relief that living in a way that your insides match your outsides brings, and I wanted to share this post again. Only this time, I need to make some edits that better reflect how my beliefs have further evolved. And while I’m not quite ready to write a comprehensive explanation of how I came to these beliefs, I want to record the evolution of those beliefs. And if you, too, are deconstructing your beliefs, I want you to know it’s a journey, indeed an evolution (just using that word alone without a visceral, rejecting reaction is difficult, isn’t it?) that has many twists and turns.

Whereas in 2019 I was running as fast and as far away from conservative evangelicalism as I could, I am now, having left that life behind, slowly meandering through the open field of possibility. No longer boxed into one narrow, straight way, I am free to explore and discover all the paths that have branched out all along; I was too blind to see them before.

March 29, 2019 (edits in bold and strikethroughs)
Sometimes there’s nothing left to do but throw all your experiences, beliefs, and structures in a pile, light a match, burn it all down…and then go about the heavy lifting of sifting through the rubble and rebuilding. [Or you may just walk away from the pile of ashes indefinitely. Maybe you’ll wander back to them someday, maybe you won’t. Perhaps you’ll revisit the site occasionally and poke at it with a stick, curious to see if there’s anything worth salvaging left. Perhaps you won’t.}

During the last few years, I’ve learned so much about myself through a variety of self-help books, personality theories, personal growth tools, retreats, goal-setting exercises, belief vs. lie exploration, journaling, and conversations with trusted friends. I’ve realized how much childhood trauma and the beliefs we develop early in life affect us in adulthood. There are more wounds than I thought. I’ve learned how the body remembers emotional pain. Oh, the body remembers so much more than we realize. I’ve learned the importance and worthiness of loving myself just as I am…without judgement or shame. A daily, hourly, sometimes minute-by-minute task.

I had lunch with a friend this week that turned into an afternoon-long discussion of how my perspectives have changed during this de/reconstruction. Let me tell you, the whole conversation was a balm to my soul. Even still, the memory of this conversation is a balm. I allowed myself to be honest and open and gave myself permission to answer whatever questions she asked.

We were both nervous to broach the topic at first, because it’s just plain scary when your close friends start deconstructing their belief systems. If you’ve not deconstructed and reconstructed your own beliefs, you’re suddenly faced with a choice: distance yourself for fear that the actively deconstructing person is no longer someone you can relate to or enter open, respectful, and honest dialogue to learn from one another. The latter is so much more difficult and rare, I’ve found. 

We chose the latter. I invited her to ask me anything she wanted—and she did. My answers flowed readily and freely; when I came to an issue I’m not yet clear on, I said so. When I knew I had a strong conviction and opinion about other issues, I said so. During our entire conversation, I neither apologized (or felt apologetic) for the views I expressed, nor did I feel compelled to convince her to agree with my viewpoint.

As a dyed-in-the-wool former evangelical and an Enneagram type 9, this was HUGE for me—especially since some of the things I said regarding gender roles, sexuality, purity culture, and the nature of God were things I never fathomed crossing my lips. Yet, as soon as they did, I felt more freedom to stop hiding behind the fear of what I’m supposed to believe and live as the person I was created to be, to have my own thoughts and opinions that were formed through careful thought and personal intuition rather than merely absorbing and adhering to the traditions handed down the family line and presented as the only possible worldview. I’ve leaned hard into my 8-wing these last two years, my desire for justice–for myself, for those on the margins, particularly BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and females in general–those who benefit least from a society and culture ruled by patriarchal norms coupled with anger that has never been allowed to show itself. Good Christian girls and women don’t get angry; we are to remain agreeable [unopinionated], meek [weak], humble [self-deprecating], compliant [unquestioning], SILENT. The white men tell us so. 

Layers upon layers of these beliefs entangle every aspect of my life because I was so entrenched in environments that sheltered me from any other perspective including attending conservative, evangelical churches in the bible belt; being home-schooled; employment at Christian institutions; attending a conservative, evangelical college; growing up in a dysfunctional home with emotional and verbal abuse; witnessing borderline physical abuse; both witnessing and experiencing religious/spiritual abuse; experiencing psychological abuse; experiencing similar effects of sexual abuse through the principles of purity culture; patriarchal hierarchy;  body-shaming, fatphobia, all resulting in chronic anxiety and depression.

It’s an absolute dumpster fire and I’ve come to the place where there’s nothing left to do than light a match and burn it all down so I can rebuild a healthier, stronger structure in its place if that is eventually something I want to do. There are some “some truths that we/Face inside some pervious light/When it’s never so black and white/So I’m learning how to live in the mystery/A peace in the choice/Letting go of the point” (Valleyheart – The Point Lyrics | AZLyrics.com)

God gave me  I have me a brain and the mental capacity to think critically, and that is exactly what I’m doing. Looking at all sides, considering different perspectives, and following the path of my personal curiosity about the world.  I have an innate desire to learn; I’ve hungered for information and words and texts since I learned to read. I enjoy hearing other perspectives and sifting through them to find the pieces that resonate with me. Majoring in English taught me not only how to approach literature from a myriad of perspectives and theories—it taught me how to approach life and all its intrinsic complexities with many lenses.

I can’t speak for my friend, but I know that I walked away from our conversation with a deep peace, a better understanding of my deconstruction process, and the hope that it won’t cost me everyone I’ve ever associated with in conservative, evangelical circles.

Will there be disagreement?

Yes.

Will there be awkward moments of stumbling through new territory on the shifting sands of deconstruction?

Absolutely.

But I think it’s so, so worthwhile to wrestle out your faith and find the truth that resonates in your own soul. If we refuse to do the hard work of examining our own lives, we grow stagnant in beliefs that are no more than ill-fitting, old hand-me-downs from the past. So often, even more so since the 2016 election, I’ve witnessed proclaiming Christians berate and belittle others who do not believe as they do, demanding they fit into a prescribed box and shunning them when they do not. People I grew up believing were safe because they believed the bible and proclaimed to follow Jesus have displayed behaviors, shared posts, and crossed lines I grieve over.
Is the Christian God not bigger than the containers we’ve built to hold him in a way that our finite capabilities can process and accept? If the God Christians proclaim is as powerful as we they say we they believe he she is, is it possible that all the legalistic, fundamental chains we’ve  they’ve bound ourselves themselves in don’t exist in his her plan for us?

So, although I am still (an even now) very much in the process of deconstructing the beliefs that were thrust upon me from the very beginning of my life (in utero, in fact–the body keeps the score and intergenerational trauma does, too) and reconstructing them into my personal beliefs that I can firmly stand on, I want to record some of the things I am actively adopting and/or working through. These may serve as an outline for future blog posts as I dive deeper in this process.

Here’s where I’ve currently landed:

I believe God a higher power of some sort exists in some capacity.

I believe God created us in his/her image.
 The image of God I have known as part of the Christian faith is vindictive and abusive. Therefore, I can no longer ascribe to this belief. On that note, I suspect any higher power that exists is more non-binary than we’ve realized. And yes, I know that’s going to be a very hot button for a lot of people. I’m not going to try to convince you. I just invite you to be curious enough to wonder whether the universe is all-encompassing enough that we could have missed the mark on this with our finite human capabilities.) The queer community has informed much of my evolving theological beliefs about the nature of a possible creator who is said to be loving but whose actions in Christianity’s sacred texts (aka the collection of literature that makes up the bible) say otherwise.

I (think I) believe Jesus was born to a virgin, crucified, and rose again.
I currently believe Jesus may have been an actual man who was vilified and murdered by the religious community as a scapegoat for their vile purposes. The term virgin is a societal construct and, as such, Mary was likely not some specially chosen vessel to bring God earthside but a young girl who needed a really good coverup for an unplanned pregnancy. Thus, a legend was, literally, born. Resurrection? Ehhh, seems a bit reaching. 

I believe that salvation/relationship with God is more of a journey than a moment/recitation of the sinner’s prayer.

I believe the bible is more of a wisdom handbook  a collection of different types of ancient literature rather than a black and white road map for all issues humans might/will face. It is a collection of texts written by many men, across thousands of years, to address a variety of cultures, people, places, and periods. It is more fluid than it is rigid. Like our beliefs should be.

I do not believe in the absolute hierarchy of the “umbrella of submission” whereby a wife is to submit, without question, to her husband or any man for that matter. I believe humans fall under the submission of God once they profess their faith, who choose to submit themselves to a higher power are free to do so, but should not punish, judge, abuse, or proselytize those who choose a different path. All humans have the right to be treated justly and fairly with equality. 

I believe “sin” has been mis-defined at the very leastto some degree by the church and that God is concerned about it on a far more personal level than what we’ve taught. (Less checklist-y, for sure, and perhaps more cognitive-based than behavioral. Again, I’m not [yet] saying this is absolute, but worth considering.)

Recently, I was introduced to a concept wherein “original sin” is actually “original trauma” and, therefore, unhealthy behaviors (sins) are the result of unprocessed trauma (whether personal or intergenerational trauma). I’m currently sitting with that to see how it fits with my lived experience and truth.

I believe that Jesus is love and believers are to live in that love, thereby exhibiting the nature of the trinity to others. Even if he were just a mortal man who became the legendary scapegoat for a particular religion, Jesus–not God but Jesus–is shown in the bible to portray a host of qualities that exhibit love. If Christians who proclaim to follow Jesus don’t exhibit those same qualities, they lose all credibility with me. No fruits of the spirit? Miss me with your judgmental, cult-like religion. 

*deep breath*

When you’ve been raised not to question the authority of the church and those who stand at the pulpit, putting forth questions and unpopular beliefs like some of those above, it’s terrifying. You wonder where the debris will fall when you’ve blown up everything you were told and oppose what you are expected to cling to. You fear losing people because they just don’t understand where you are or how you got here. I have lost people. 

I’ve spent my whole life making sure everyone else was okay at the expense of my mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. I’ve avoided conflict like it’s my job because I didn’t want to rock the boat and cause a storm. I’ve sat down, shut up, and suppressed my emotions, thoughts, opinions, and voice since I was a child. Young Ticcoa deserved so much more. I’ve listened to the voices—both internally and externally–that told me I was too much, not enough, irrational, rebellious, too sensitive, making things up, not saved enough, allowing satan to build strongholds in my life (yeah—as an eight-year-old…fun times). I lived in utter fear of missing the mark, not being good enough, being damned to eternal flames for merely existing in developmentally-appropriate ways.  I was made to distrust my intuition, taught to equate mental health with spiritual health and shamed for any perceived weakness or struggle, robbed of my dreams because other people deemed them unworthy, and promised that the ultimate end goal, the fatted calf of the church—marriage and a family–would be mine if I just followed all the rules. The world of possibilities was so much wider than I was allowed to see. 

I pasted on a smile while my insides cried out for help.

I buried my heart so no one could break it anymore than it had already been broken.

I disconnected mind from body, from soul because all of them were sin-ridden and none of them were to be trusted.

I made myself small. I’m taking up space.

I disappeared. I deserve to be seen. 

Enough. I’m DONE. 

I’m waking up. I’ve woken up. 

And I’m no longer apologizing for being me. Not sorry.

This is who I want to be. This is who I am. 

 

———-

*Note: I am open to respectful, thoughtful discussion in the comments both here on my website and on social media; however, I reserve the right to remove any dismissive, cruel, and polarizing comments. I’m not interested in perpetuating unhelpful and hurtful religious agendas. *