The Runaway Son

There’s a trending topic that is circling in the real of religion: deconstruction. Previously, I had talked about this topic. I expressed how I had personally gone through a deconstruction of my faith. Not only is it a hot topic right now, but it’s also super controversial. When looking at a deconstruction of faith, the idea is that the faith that you once held no longer works. You can no longer see life the way that you once could and God no longer has the same face or essence that God had before. Some people who undergo this process become atheists. Others come on the other side of deconstruction with a different religion or a new perspective on the original faith that they had to let go of.

There were a couple of insights that I had stumbles upon with deconstruction that I thought would be beneficial to those of you who follow The Spiritual Dilemma. Whether you are an Atheist, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Agnostic, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Sikh, Pagan, or anything in between, there comes a time where doubts of faith occur and you must figure out what you truly believe. Because of my Christian background, it’s easy for me to take my perspectives from the Christian Bible. I want to take a look at the story of The Prodigal Son. If you’re interested in reading it on your own, you can find it in Luke 15:11-32. In the meantime, I’m going to give a short run through.

The Prodigal Son begins with a wealthy family. The youngest son approaches his father and tells him that he wants his inheritance. Think of it like him demanding to get the money and possessions that his father would have left him in a will. You can see how offensive this was. The father was loving and willingly gave his son the inheritance. The son did what every young and reckless person would do: party. The son spent every bit of his inheritance. When the son realized there was nothing left, a famine swept over the land. The son had nothing. He was so poor that he ate with pigs. He realized that everything he had was lost and so he went back to his father. The father saw him approaching his home and the father ran to embrace his son. The son wanted to work as a slave but the father accepted his son back and threw a party. The older brother was jealous that the father so lovingly accepted to take his son back. The older brother was so envious and full of anger that he didn’t go to the party and sulked in his bitterness.
I’ve heard this story so many times, and it’s one of my favorites.

There’s a point here deeper than we may realize. The point of this story is to wrestle with the text and let the story speak to you. The text has a story rooted deep in it. Typically, I hear the story told as someone who “backslides” and the father accepts them back. I’ve even heard it preached that it is a story of “becoming saved”. Those are really hard for me to swallow on this side of reconstruction. When I read this story, I see the process of deconstruction embedded in it. The younger son is a representation of someone who undergoes this process, the father is a god-figure, and the older brother is the community that the son has left behind.

If you look at the youngest son, you can see that he is well grounded and is perfectly fine in his home. He has food, shelter, water, work, family, and a future to look forward to. He could live a very comfortable life. The son has everything to live a perfect and comfortable life. He has no worry at all, yet he decides to get uncomfortable. He asks his father for the inheritance and when he gets it, he spends it all and realizes that everything that he once had is lost. His previous way of life was lost and he struggled. The younger son experienced a realm of uncertainty. This is where deconstruction happens. We find that what we once held true no longer fits life. We realize that the faith that we were given growing up no longer works for us. We throw it away and hit a low. We experience a famine in our soul and live in the lowly depths of spirituality. We struggle and we stay in this place until we are awakened. In fact, the parable tells us that the younger son “came to his senses”. He realized there was something for him. He came back to his father and strived to serve him as long as he could be fed. This is exactly what deconstruction feels like. The faith that once was is spent, the soul hits a place of confusion, the spirit awakens, and the person returns to a place of new perspective. The deconstructionist is the same, but they are different all at the same time.

The older brother represents the faith that the younger brother has left behind. Often times, a person who has undergone deconstruction doesn’t fit in with the old faith and the old community that they had been a part of. People of that community notice. In my own personal experience, I have had many people notice that I have changed. I have been called many things. I have been labeled a heretic, a false prophet, and I have been told that I don’t know what I’m talking about. One of my close friends told me that people think that I am crazy for the things I say and that nobody can pinpoint what I believe. He said that I am the definition of a question mark. As you can see, this sounds a lot like the older brother. These words show that I am not taken the same as I was before, and that sounds a lot like how the older brother responded to the younger brother. I will say, there are people that accept me who know me well enough to know that my heart is in the right place, but oftentimes others are confused about my ideas and beliefs. As I’ve learned, this is common among those who experience deconstruction.

The father, as stated earlier, represents the god-figure. God’s thinking is much higher than our own. We are called to think like God, but we often find that we get in the way of ourselves. We block ourselves from reaching a place to ever fully thinking like God. This is called sin. It’s destructive and consuming. It dehumanizes and causes destruction. God calls us to a place above that, and in this story we see that the father has an understanding that surpasses the humility of the youngest son and the sin of the older brother. The father thinks above the “either or” mentality and is inclusive to not only the old way of faith, but the new faith that the deconstructionist has stumbled upon. The father loves all aspects of the faith and is found in every perspective. Those are his children, and we are His children. Faith can be frustrating. Faith can bring doubts and questions. Faith can be found in fear. Faith brings us closer to the father.

There’s one last perspective that we can find in this story. It’s a very simple one. Deconstruction brings us into a full circle. The son left, the son hit rock bottom, the son returned back to his previous destination looking completely different than he was before. It was as if he was the same, but also very different at the same time. When a person undergoes this deconstruction of faith, they find themselves in full circle. They find that their life has been flipped and they look a lot like they did before, only different. There’s somthing special here in that. We can find surity that we will always be in the arms of the father. We can find surity that we will always be welcomed. We can always be sure that our faith will never be the same. This is healthy, and this is what growth looks like.

To conclude, I don’t know where you are in life. I don’t know what you believe. I don’t know what faith you have or if you don’t follow any religion at all. I strive to accept and love no matter where you are. That’s why I created The Spiritual Dilemma. All are accepted. All are welcomed. All are loved.

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