Going through the Motions

On one of my post online-teaching evening walks in the last few weeks, I listened to Joshua Harris in conversation with Nadia Meli. He talked about this deconstruction process and compared it to a LEGO house being smashed by a basketball. 

This made me wonder about my own journey into the wilderness, which I set out on more than six years ago. 

It is difficult to put deconstruction into one coherent structure because while it involves loss and pain, it is very different from death and grief. Nevertheless, I have tried to reflect on my faith journey and tried to identify different phases of unlearning and relearning.
Not everyone experiences the same and not all experiences are equally intense, but maybe these thoughts might help you put some of your questions and emotions into perspective.

Surprise. 
I would probably compare my deconstruction to a JENGA game. For years I had built up a stable tower of Christian doctrine, practices, routines and answers to everything. My faith felt unshakeable. 

Nevertheless, many small events began to pull out buildings blocks from my tower. There were some questions and doubts I couldn’t answer, but I tried to push them to the side. I was really busy with finishing up my university degree, but I still took on a major role at a Christian conference working myself close to burnout. My faith failed in times of despair and tragedy.  

The tower began to wobble, but I kept pushing and going. It was only a matter of time until the whole thing would come down. While I was leading worship at a camp I was really looking forward to, that last fatal block was pulled and my tower crumbled (here’s the extended version of this event, in case you’re interested). 

I fell apart.  
After so many years of doing, I finally had to stop and relearn to just be. 
I had to uncover who I was and what my faith was actually made of.  

Anger. 
I spent some months grieving in the midst of the broken pieces of my faith. I just couldn’t believe that the security I had held onto for so long just didn’t work anymore. I thought it was a phase and would smooth itself out if I just waited. But it didn’t. 

As I rummaged through the rubble, I became angry. 
Angry at God for allowing this to happen and seeming so absent in this wilderness. 
Angry at people in church for their prayers and bible verses instead of walking through my questions with me. 
Angry at the system with its strict doctrines and its quick fixes. Instead of welcoming complexity, it offered dualistic simplicity. I knew I didn’t want to go back to simply rebuilding that same tower, I just couldn’t. But I also felt incredibly lost without it. 
Angry at myself for being angry at people I loved, for feeling so disconnected from everyone and everything, for being so vulnerable. 

Wilderness. 
I began to turn over every block of that JENGA tower which once used to be my faith. Looked at them in more detail. How did it get there? Why did I really practice this or that?
I let go of every routine I ever had. All the things a “good Christian” was supposed to do. I expected things to change for the worse or some form of punishment for not reading the Bible or not praying – but nothing happened. I grew frustrated and incredibly lost. What was the point of doing all these things if they didn’t change my life at all?
I thought about throwing all of the blocks away since they seemed to be useless. Would I be left with nothing then? I couldn’t bear the thought that all my beliefs I had carried for 25 years were an illusion.

Encounter. 
In the midst of frustration and desperation, I also felt a breath of fresh air. It was liberating to throw away buildings blocks that didn’t fit anymore and make space for something new. 
As I walked further into the wilderness, I realized that I am not alone. The blocks of my tower have been cleared away and I can see the foundations. I met Emmanuel – the God who is here. I was finally honest with him about my questions and doubts. 
I contended with him for answers. – He told me that faith actually happens in this tension between knowing and unknowing.
I just wanted to go back to ‘when everything was still alright.’ – He introduced me to facets about himself I had missed all these years.  
I met people with similar thoughts and wide hearts – fellow wanderers who became kindred spirits. They helped me see the magic that’s out here in the wilderness. They opened my eyes to the depth that can be found in ancient truths and practices. I discovered God around my table, in food, on my evening walks, on the radio, in other people. 
I began to hope that maybe, just maybe, my faith was still there – but it had taken on a different form. 

Freedom. 
The last six years were difficult. I gave myself permission to experience the process with all its emotions and allow myself time not to think for a while. To walk through uncertainty and let go of security. For someone who always needed all the answers (and bible verses to back them up), it was a completely new and liberating experience to say, “I don’t know (yet)”. 
I have come to appreciate the ambiguity of believing, being and living. I am still learning to make my home here in the wilderness. A place of great freedom and beauty. A place of belly laughs, deep thoughts and honest faith. A place where God is always near. 
I have fought and cried and despaired. But I have found peace.

As I reconstruct my JENGA tower, I realize that it might be time to excavate a few more of the foundations below the surface. Fellow wanderers tell me about their journeys and how they have intellectually deconstructed many of their old beliefs. They have made me aware that there’s still so much to discover out there. 

So far, my deconstruction journey has been very experiential. I needed to let go of rituals and practices and try out new forms instead. For this process it was helpful not to go into all kinds of deep theological debates and arguments. I guess I wasn’t really ready for it back then and I am glad I wasn’t. It would’ve been too much to lose form and content at the same time, I’m not sure I’d still believe today.

But now, I have found new freedoms and I am more okay with ambiguity and not knowing all the answers. So I might be ready to enter a new phase of reconstruction.  

Understanding the intersection of faith and culture. 
Touching the big concepts of faith and maybe killing some darlings along the way.
Clearing away some of the theological clouds hiding the divine character behind them.  
Finding God over and over again. 

Wherever you are on this journey: Your thoughts matter. Your emotions are valid. It takes time, but you are not alone.


One of the greatest joys in this reconstruction process has been to meet so many interesting people and their stories of faith. I am now collecting them in a podcast called strich;punkt to share thoughts on unlearning and relearning God together. If you speak German, you can find it on Spotify or Apple Podcasts!

A Practice for Uncertainty

It’s day Godknowswhat of this lockdown – how are you doing? 

We have reached a state where nothing is sure anymore. 

We don’t know when we’ll go back to school or what school will look like in the future.
We don’t know if we’ll see some students this year at all.
We don’t know if there will be grades or any graduation.

I don’t know what my summer break will look like.
I don’t know when I’ll be able to see real human beings in real life again.
I don’t know when we’ll be able to just sit on the lawn together, with a beer in hand, watching the sunset.
I don’t know if my family will be spared from the virus.
I don’t know how our hearts and minds will overcome this collective trauma.
I don’t know if any of the good practices we discover now – self-care, long walks, enough sleep, solidarity – will uphold once the speed of life is back on.  

Uncertainty really sinks in now and I feel a shift in so many. So far we were able to push back the circumstances as temporary, now we have to get used to the reality that this could really take a while and we need to adjust everything – our schedules, plans, lives – to it. 

This can be overwhelming. 

In the last few weeks I’ve practiced some meditative rituals (inspired by Aaron Niequist’s The Eternal Current) which help me to acknowledge my joys and fears in these crazy times. I can’t make them go away, but I can lay them out in the open and place them into the hand of the Divine who’s right here with me. In such crazy and uncertain times, it is important to reflect (and maybe adjust) our perspective regularly. 

Maybe you’d like to join me? 

Find a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe. Inhale and exhale deeply. Once you’ve found a rhythm, start the meditation. 

This practice is not about dragging God into my life. I rather want to discover the places God is already at work in it. I focus on God right now, as much as this is possible in this moment. I ask him to help me look at my day with open eyes and ears and a receptive heart. 

I look at my day in gratitude, thinking of what I’ve experienced. 

I notice what I feel. God reminds me that I can look back without judgement or shame at how I treated others – and myself – today. 

If you want, you can reach out your right hand, palm up.

I look at the things that brought me joy, comfort and hope today. I express gratitude for them. 

If you want, you can also reach out your left hand, palm up. 

I look at the things that caused me pain, discouragement and fear today. I sit and grieve, then let them go into the hands of God. 

I look to what lies ahead. I ask: What do I want to take with me from today? I ask for strength, wisdom and courage. 

Inhale. Exhale. End.      


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

The Darkness around and in Us

It’s the first week of Easter break, but who really cares? There’s no visible change to the scenery, I can travel from my bed to the kitchen to the balcony with an occasional layover in the bathroom. Things have become so dull, so same, so lifeless. 

It’s actually the perfect way to begin Holy Week. 

In a week when we remember a life giving story in the midst of darkness, it can be difficult to grasp such abstract concepts like sin and forgiveness, death and resurrection. So many of us struggle to feel the right things at the right time because it all just seems so removed from our reality. 

This year the darkness has become tangible. 

For weeks now public life has stopped and we’re confined to our own spaces. While some of us might appreciate this unexpected pause in their busy lives, you might also be one who struggles to enjoy this time. 

You who lives with the risk of domestic violence, turning your safe home into a war zone.
You who craves just a short moment to yourself without your partner, children or siblings demanding more of your time and energy.
You who has not seen or touched another human face in weeks.
You who feels the weight of isolation taking its toll on you as loneliness seeps through your body and slowly takes a hold of your mind and soul.

You who are crammed into broken cold tents on an island at the outskirts of Europe, waiting for a promise to be fulfilled.
You who are most at risk from dying of our merciless politics and rejection.  

You who have seen your dreams of a birthday, a vacation, a wedding being taken from you without warning.
You who have closed your shop and don’t know if you’ll ever reopen.
You who face illness with no chance of a cure. 

You who have lost a loved one in this time and find no safe space to mourn.
You who feel like your grief is going to overpower you.
You who wonder how long this uncertainty will last. 

Welcome to the darkness. 

Maybe this is what Holy Week is about: As we lean into this unknown space together struggling to make sense of it all, we gain a bit more understanding of this death so long ago. No matter where you are on this planet, in your life span, in your emotions – the darkness encompasses us all and makes us one. 

We become aware of each other’s suffering.
We feel each other’s pain.
We grow closer as we blindly stumble towards the light.  


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Taking Stock

Last night a strong urge to clean came over me. Don’t ask me why it often hits me at such unusual times. Some call it procrastination to avoid more pressing tasks, some need it in order to fully function. For me, it might be a bit of both.

Once in a while it’s good to take stock.
To examine what I have on my shelves and in my drawers and decide which of these things I truly need.
To sift through the stacks of books and boxes full of nonsense.
To realize that things I once bought or held onto for so long are no longer needed.
To get rid of objects simply taking up space and dust in your drawers.
To regain control over the chaos, make space in my head and heart.
To discover long-forgotten treasures and fall in love with them all over again.

It is exhausting and tiresome, but when I clean out drawers and shelves, I learn.

Once in a while it’s time for a spiritual clean-up.
To take stock of my faith and ideas.
To examine what I have been taught and decide what I actually believe.
To sift through the limiting boxes I have put God in.
To realize that the doctrines I once held onto so tightly no longer explain the God I have come to know now.
To get rid of empty forms cluttering my mind and deafening the spirit.
To rediscover old practices and fall in love with truths my soul has known all along.
To make space to breath and new life to come in.

It is risky and often painful, but when I clean out my life and faith, I grow. 

When was your last clean-up? What have you gotten rid of? Which truths have you rediscovered?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Into the Unknown

I have peeled away layer after layer
dived deeper into who you are
and if I’ve ever known you at all.

Dissected what I learned about you
relished in the moments when you came to meet me
let go of beliefs I had held on so tightly
released my grip on convictions that no longer seemed convincing at all
said goodbye to broken images of you and myself.

I have felt alone and wrong and lost so many times
moments when I heard the past calling me
to just shut off my thoughts
silence my questions
and return.

But I can’t.

I’ve tasted the freedom
I have seen beauty in the wilderness
I keep moving forward even though I have no idea where this will lead me.

I stand in front of the great unknown
with no clue of the destination
There’s no map that tells me where to go next
there’s nothing left but trust.

At the crossroads of doubts and promises is where faith begins.


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

Would You?

What would you say
if I
decided to come back?
Would you
welcome me
into your open arms?
Would you
embrace me
until I stopped
shaking?
Would you
tell me that
your love
for me
has
never
stopped
no matter
how far away
from you
I had run?
Would you
remind me
that there is
always,
always grace?
Would you
show me
what it means
to love
again,
to be in this relationship,
to believe?
Would you have
faith
for me
when I lose it
yet again?
Would you
reveal new facets about
yourself
to me?
Would you
allow me to find
you,
to know you
again?
Would you
take me by the hand
and walk with me
into this
wide space
in front of us?
Would you
show me how
beautiful
and deep
life with you can be?
Would you
teach me that being with
you
is
was
and will always be
worth it?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.
Inspired by a story.

For the Wanderers and Wonderers [A Deconstructionist Psalm]

I leave the safe shore behind and wade into the waves.
Through bitterness and hurt I develop critical thinking and courage to not remain silent. I face my fears and name my anger.

I am walking away and I am walking further. And I am wondering when I will arrive.
And if I do, where will I be? 

I ask the uncomfortable questions and sit a long time waiting for the answers.
I live with silence.
I open the boxes that contain my knowledge about You, the facts and stories I have been taught over the years, the things I no longer am sure of.
I take them in my hands, one by one, turn them over and examine them from all angles.
I sift through the mess that is my heart to get to the real emotions hiding in the corners.

I let go of what doesn’t carry me anymore, of false assumptions, of too small ideas of You. I reach out to others in the wilderness and enjoy our honest conversations for once.
I embrace a bigger picture, a bigger You, a bigger love.

I am walking away and I am walking further. And I am wondering when I will arrive.
And if I do, where will You be? 

I can’t deny that this journey has been painful and exhausting.
What happens after letting go?
What do I do with the remains of my faith?
I wonder if I will ever get to a point when I’ll feel whole again.
When the broken pieces have been reconstructed and transformed into something stronger and more beautiful than imagined.
When I have developed new ways to find You, to believe in You.

I am walking away and I am walking further. And I am wondering if this is what I’m meant to be – a wanderer, a wonderer, a person completely herself. A traveler who knows deep in her heart that You are the only constant on this journey. 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

The Grass on this Side of the Fence

So here’s a confession: I compare. More than I actually should.
No matter how much I seem or am content with my life right now, no matter how many good things I have going on – I will always peek across the fence, observe what other people have, who they are with, what I seemingly miss in my life.
A slimmer figure.
Money to travel the world.
Better skills at writing, photography or cooking.
Success in marketing and sharing my craft.
A stable place I can call home.
A partner who loves me unconditionally.
A deep sense of belonging.
More self-confidence.
An unwavering faith.

Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. 

As I spiral down into my hole of despair, I wonder how people got to the other side of the fence. Were they lucky or did they just work harder than me? Do they know more people or did they just wait until something happened? Were they given better opportunities than me?

And that’s when it clicks and somethings shifts in my mind and heart.
It’s about opportunity.

Opportunity is actually an interesting concept because it’s not something we can earn or work for. Opportunities are undeserved gifts of grace that present themselves. 
But it is up to us what we make of them.

I am challenged to open my eyes for the many gifts that I have already been given in my life. The many little chances that could make a change in my story.
I see a woman with a nice coat – do I go over and make her compliment?
I discover the talents that are inside of me – do I use them for my career and relationships?
I hear of someone in need – do I offer my help?
I have this insane understanding of a certain topic – do I make it accessible for others?
I am a rather quiet and stable person – do I use it to create an open space for people to feel welcome?
I question a lot of things and think aloud – do I help others on their journey and engage in conversation?

The more I marvel at the many opportunities I’ve been given, I realize how green the grass on this side of the fence actually is.

I challenge you to look at the opportunities in your life: which gifts of grace have you received and what do you make of them? Which opportunities can you seize today? 


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

The Twist inside of Us

I sit at the table, a stack of papers in front of me. The red pen is dancing across the white sheets as I cross out something here or correct something there.
I am grading papers – one of the uncomfortable parts of my teaching job.

The more I have to tell others what they did wrong, the more I realize how twisted the mindset behind it is. We focus so much on our mistakes, call out what is not going well and complain about everything we lack. We have drilled our minds to watch out for the negative and always strive for improvement.

And while I’m not saying that we shouldn’t grow and learn and change ourselves, I wonder if this mindset tells us something about a belief we have installed in our society and allowed to trickle down into the very core of our DNA: We are not good enough. There’s always something wrong about us. 

This lie has shaped our identity from early on and affects the way we perform in school, engage in our relationships, practice our faith. In this fast-paced world of ours, we only seem to matter if we become faster, better, more effective at hiding our weaknesses.

But what if we shone some truth on this lie?
What if we celebrated our strengths and put them to good use?
What if we practiced more gratitude for the many great things we’ve been given?
What if we handed out compliments instead of criticism for a change?
What if we believed in the old words of “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing”?


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.

The Reward of Letting Go

I have given you my everything
performed on big stages
attended all the must-have-been-there events
showed my face with all the right people

I have read so much about you and
was quick to give an answer
or judgment
said all the rights things and
maybe
often said too much

I have worked hard for you
exhausted myself over hours
and days
and years
not realizing that life inside of me
was
running
out

I let go of my certainties and safe answers
opened my mind to what if and maybe
fell silent when voices around me grew louder
allowed doubt to sneak in

I left behind the old trodden paths
the places that told me who I was
the world of black and white
the safe realm of knowing it all

I wondered if I had made the right choice
if returning to the old ideas would make the wilderness any more bearable
if I simply thought too much and
somehow lost myself along the way
to
find that

I have discovered infinite beauty in mundane places
the rich colors life has to offer
the depth that is born out of darkness
the light that shines through the cracks

I have inhaled the scent of freedom
the life-changing difference of must and may
the peace that is found in stillness
and an honest “I don’t know yet”

I am learning that the reward of letting go
is getting to know you all over again
falling deeper into your unfathomable vastness
only to be held by who you’ve
been all along


Writing for Five Minute Friday today.