We don’t want to deconstruct our students, we said. We know what theology can do to a person, turn them inside out and back to front.
We don’t want to deconstruct our students. But, oh, how I wish Jesus had such qualms with me. Nearly two years of a deconstruction so massive that it is beyond my ability to tell. Most of it so deep inside that you might not know anything but its surface ripples. A slow-detonation bomb which is progressively wiping out any sense of constructedness that I ever had. The devastation becoming visible now, self straining to hold everything together under the weight of these forces. Forces which destroy in order to remake.
Just a sabbatical, we said. A little break from the pressures of ministry. Time to recalibrate, realign. A short retreat, harmless way to begin four months of withdrawal from ministry.
Had I known.
Had I known, I cannot think that I would ever have taken this path. A path more beautiful, yes, but one also more destructive than any I have yet known. For he has drawn me into him. And his way is the way of death. Of obliteration of all that is flesh, that I might be rebuilt in his image only. Forces which destroy in order to remake.
In a way, there is no division here. No speaking of parts of my life being levelled whilst others stand strong amongst the ruins. All is integrated and his determination to possess without limit. Yet still I see individual strands, different expressions of the same whole. Spirituality. Professional life. Academic work. And in each this story of breaking apart, unravelling of my mind and heart.
For two years, I have said yes. Again and again. Yes to him. Yes to what he asks. Yes to an intimacy which is a consuming fire. Yes to a dimension more faith than sight, a knowing shaped more by revelation than by deduction. And in May, he sealed that Yes with blood and water and oil.
Because of May, in this last two weeks he has moved me into a new place. A place of utter disarray, consequence of this repeated Yes. The pieces of me are so scattered that I am struggling to function as a whole. I am in a place so deconstructed that I cannot reconstruct myself. And I am afraid and I am at peace. For he destroys in order to remake.
I find myself with no voice. As if I go to speak and only a croak comes out. For I cannot get a purchase on what I might say. I sit at the table with colleagues and I engage with the vastness of it all. How little I know. The screeching consciousness of how scattered my perceivings. Their provisionality. And all illusion of knowing what to say, as if I were on the outside of a reality objectively observable by me, that illusion is gone. He is drawing me into a participative knowing so overwhelming that I cannot yet make sense of it, so overpowering that my mind and heart are strewn beyond my ability to reorder them.
My academic work, too, is the same. The words are there on the page. Objectively justifiable, copiously footnoted. So near, in one sense. Yet so far. Because I haven’t yet lived inside their truth, known this thesis from inside out. And I saw just last week how much is yet to occur, that though the substance of the writing may not change I must become enlarged. For I am not yet big enough to hold this thinking’s weightiness. And mine is not analytical work which permits me to stand outside what is being known. Instead I must inhabit it, let it form me, be changed by it. Its complexity is unwieldy: even articulations which were my own operate to silence me as I read them on the page; my voice falters as I contemplate how I can ever so inhabit this truth that I will know it, be able to speak it, defend it.
Yes, the destruction is so complete that the one who made a living from arguing is now out of arguments. She can hardly hold a coherent thought, ability to function creaking now. And Jesus has been telling her to remain silent. In the tightrope walk of her spirituality, mystic and activist struggling now for supremacy, he has called her to speak with him only.
And though he invites silence, and though her voice is only a croak, she feels pressure to speak. To pull her weight. To say something, to write something, which allows her to feel she has something worth contributing again. To live up to what everyone else seems to think she is capable of. To stop failing, reposit her self as something other than scattered, useless.
It’s as if some power wants her to try to rebuild what the Fear of Israel has destroyed. As if something wants her to reject the ravages of grace, to rebuild what could only be Tower of Babel in her life.
But the one called Jealous guards his treasures well. For he has not only invited me to silence; he has also silenced me. I have discovered that I cannot speak even when I try. Grace has removed human possibility. No way of scraping up the oil poured out, unsmashing the jar, putting it back as it was to the day before May’s Yes. And I stand in the formless void, no hope to bring life where he has brought devastation in me.
And yet there, even especially there, the Spirit hovers over the waters. And the one who breathed life into creation, the Father’s power who resurrected Jesus from dead, he too will raise me, I believe.
I am believing that, in time, my voice will be given back to me. That it will then come from him, reconfigured sound, a new song. That he will reconstruct me, rearrange me until thesis and teaching and leading and everything these involve are overflow of a life of knowing from the inside out. That mystic and activist will be unified, whole.
Between fear and faith, I am here. Trusting. For he destroys in order to remake.