Deconstruction Diaries: Learning from The Very Worst Missionary

“I’ve never been let down by God, but I’ve been tremendously let down by the Church.”

This was said by Jamie Wright, otherwise known in the blogging world as “The Very Worst Missionary,” during her recent interview on The Bible for Normal People Podcast.

Honestly, I heard this statement and was kind of blown away. Wow, I thought. Knowing her story, I can’t believe she’s able to say something like that—about never being let down by God.

I’ve been reading my way through Jamie’s new book, The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever, and if anyone has a right to feel let down by God, I’d say Jamie definitely does. Her and her husband uprooted their family of five to become missionaries to Costa Rica, and while there she quickly learned that mission work is not as glamorous or magical as American evangelicalism makes it out to be.

I resonate with Jamie’s story because in many ways (minus the becoming-a-missionary part), I’ve found myself smack-dab in the middle of reevaluating certain beliefs I’ve built my faith and worldview on. Like her, a series of experiences set me on a path of questioning the version of Christianity I’ve always accepted as being “right.”

It’s very difficult to remain close to someone when it feels like they unexpectedly pulled the rug out from underneath your feet, which is exactly what I’ve felt has happened in my friendship with God this past year or two. Here I was being the good kind of Christian I thought God wanted me to be, then all of a sudden my inner world was falling apart, and seemingly at God’s doing.

It’s not enough to say my trust in God wavered; my trust in God fell apart completely.

My friendship with God since then has been distant at best, which is why it sounded absolutely absurd for someone who underwent a similar experience of deconstruction to say God had never let her down.

Excuse me? You spent five years in a foreign country living in a house with seeping walls, geckos crawling up your pants, depression nearly suffocating you, and reality causing you to totally second-guess God’s “calling” on your family to become missionaries—and you say God’s never let you down??

(If that’s true, I think I just won the award for weakest faith.)

The thing is, as ridiculous as Jamie’s comment on the podcast sounded to me, it stuck with me. It soaked into my thoughts and added a new flavor to the deconstructive juices flowing in my brain.

Then, I wondered something.

What if I actually 100% agree with Jamie’s statement, but I just haven’t reached the place where I can say it yet?

What if it’s not God who lets us down, but all our wonky theologies and rickety beliefs we pick up from the world around us about Him?

See, hearing Jamie’s story challenged me to consider maybe it wasn’t God who let me down, but all the individual strips of beliefs and teachings I’d strung on Him like paper mache. It’s like I’d been handed a brand new tool for my deconstruction toolbox—a scraper to start removing all the sticky, toxic gunk that’s adhered to my perception of God and morphed him into a distorted form?

An important thing happened in my spiritual journey today because someone had the courage to say, “I’ve been let down by churchy rules and messed up religious thought, but those things are not who God is.”

Maybe I still don’t know who God quite is. But I can at least say I have a much better idea of who He is not.

And with my new scraper in hand, I’m ready to continue finding out.

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