I barely recognize my house anymore.
No, I don’t mean the physical house I grew up in and have called home all 25 years of my life.
I mean the house of me, the metaphorical structure that embodies who I am and my existence in the world.
See, for most of my life, I’ve been building. Busy building my skills, building friendships, building my faith in Jesus, building family relationships, building my character, and building strengths out of my flaws. I’ve been pretty darn proud of the house I’ve made, this inner abode my soul calls home, where my mind finds refuge, and my heart finds purpose.
Somewhere along the way, while I was hard at work hammering in nails and sawing two-by-fours, I noticed a creaky floorboard. While I was checking out the creaky floorboard, I spotted a big crack forming on the wall. Around the break, the paint was chipping, revealing a hideous layer of wallpaper underneath.
Before I knew it, I was staring at a house clearly falling apart and in need of some serious attention. I’d stopped building long enough to really see for the first time so many things I’d been overlooking: the cobwebs in the corners where I’d played as a child, broken windows where I used to look out at the world with sweet innocence. My hammer and saw fell from my hands as I dropped to my knees and wept for the only house I’d ever known, now seeing it as it truly was—a house crumbling and broken.
This is the best way I’ve come to describe what deconstruction feels like for me, this process of reevaluating the systems and structures I’ve built my life on thus far. It’s meant taking many of my beliefs, perspectives, and values and discerning which ones have weathered the seasons well, and which ones took a beating from the storms.
When I finally was no longer able to ignore the failing state of my house, I was left with two options. One, I could keep trying to ignore the issues and continue building as if they didn’t exist, or two, I could exchange my building tools for (deep breath) a sledgehammer and start gutting out the bad.
Both options will cost you something, one being the freedom to live true to yourself, and the other being comfort and familiarity. When I considered the costs, I knew there was no faking it anymore. If life is worth living, it was only going to be worth it for me if I chose to live it authentically and wholeheartedly.
For the first time in my life, it was time to stop building. It was time to start something altogether new to me: purposefully demolishing.
Deconstruction has often felt like death. It’s meant living under a big blue tarp of shame for a while as I worked on tearing old, damaged shingles off my faith. It’s meant doing demolition on my own because I’ve been too afraid those who know me will hate the changes I’m making to the layout of my worldview. It’s meant agonizing over whether to let go of beliefs that have always patterned these walls or mustering up the courage to consider new, unconventional colors. It’s meant accepting some people may not want to stop over or compliment me anymore on how well put together and lovely my house is.
Change, even necessary change, can be really hard.
As I stand back and look at the progress I’ve made since first picking up my sledgehammer, my heart rate quickens from anxiety. The walls are bare and white, there are crumbled heaps of drywall scattered around, and a fine layer of chalky dust covers everything visible. I’m startled a bit looking around this house I’ve spent my whole life in, seeing it for the first time in an almost unrecognizable state.
Can you relate to ever looking at something so familiar and being taken aback by how drastically different it’s become?
When you’re in the middle of deconstruction like this where, in some cases, you’re literally dismantling some of the core components of who you are, there can be a lot of emotions to process. There’s shame, doubt, depression, and anxiety, with bursts of excitement and sweet release mixed in. There’s sorrow and mourning over what’s being let go, yet joy and anticipation for what new things will occupy this freshly created space. Suffice to say, deconstruction can feel very emotionally exhausting.
That’s why thinking of deconstruction as a making over of my inner house has been so beneficial. It’s given me clarity on what I’m going through, a familiar real-world comparison, and a regained sense of control over this tumultuous process.
Reconsidering long-held beliefs, rewriting personal values, and redefining old definitions (not to mention revisiting the experiences that gave you these very things) is some of the most profound, laborious work you may ever do in life. Heart-work is never easy because it requires total honesty and complete vulnerability. It’s letting yourself be fully exposed.
Even in the messiness of deconstruction going on in my inner sanctuary right now, I can sense something new, something light settling in between these worn walls. The heavy labor is giving way to a promising feeling of freedom, and out of the debris, a unique design is taking form.
I hardly recognize what’s become of my house. But what’s becoming of it is shaping up to be wholeheartedly, unashamedly, and authentically me.
*Interested in submitting a guest post to iAmSteveAustin.com? Click here for details.
Why I’m Trying Out Church Again for the First Time
Guest blog: It’s Depression, Not Demon Possession
Guest Post: When You Can’t Erase Your Childhood Religion
Finding God in Stillness
Pastors and Suicide: What Should I Know?
VIDEO: I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide.
What the Hell is a Christian Agnostic?
13 Favorite Quotes from Catching Your Breath