Updated: May 23
Of all the seasons of the year, Easter is perhaps the hardest one to walk through if you are or have been deconstructing your Christian faith.
Holy Week is the heart of the Christian calendar. It is in the stories of Good Friday and Easter Sunday that much Christian theology is sourced. The questions surrounding Jesus’ death - and what happened afterwards and what it means for us today - are what theologians have spent millennia debating and wrestling with. And whereas at Christmas we might be able to skirt around the edge of our doubt, Easter often brings it into full focus.
Traditions and practices and creeds that once felt life-giving now feel complicated at best and toxic at worst. A shifting faith can create a sense of disconnect with friends and family who you might once have shared an understanding with. It can feel hard to know what is right to do, what feels authentic to the place you find yourself in. And there may be heavy emotions tangled up in it all: guilt, shame, anger, despair.
So what to do if you find yourself approaching Holy Week in the midst of a significant faith shift?
1. Be right where you are.
Your one task is to be fully with yourself, to offer sacred witness to the movements of your heart, mind and soul. Remind yourself that a shifting faith is a sign of life! Offer yourself endless compassion for the ways this is hard, and let yourself off the hook for getting it perfectly right. Ask yourself what you need this week and consider how you might meet those needs with love and spaciousness.
2. Recognise the breadth of theological interpretations within Christianity.
It might be tempting to try and find the “right” answer at Easter, as if that will solve all your problems. Particularly if you were brought up in a tradition that emphasised just one theology of salvation, you might find yourself grasping after certainty.
In reality, there is a wide breadth of interpretations of the events of Easter, and people have been wrestling with these same questions for centuries. Release the need to figure it out right now. Know that your belonging is not based on having the right beliefs - faith is so much bigger and wider than that.
If it feels life-giving, you might like to explore ideas or practices from other streams of the Christian faith. Or you might be inspired to incorporate the traditions of your own ancestors. Perhaps, simply wondering, where do I notice the pattern or death and resurrection in my life and the world around me today? There is space for you to explore at your own speed.
3. Allow yourself to enjoy those parts of Easter you want to, without self-judgement.
Perhaps you feel unable to enjoy Easter without feeling like a fraud or a liar? Our need to be "authentic" can sometimes rob us of the delight of this time of year. Instead, allow yourself to be in flux and unfinished, which might look like continuing to enjoy traditions that meant a lot to you:
Sing the hymns that lift your spirit with their music and the happy memories they carry, without needing to believe every word. Take communion without needing to understand exactly what your theology of the cross is. Dress up and go to church or brunch, organise an egg hunt, bake hot cross buns.
You are no less “authentic” for embracing your own inner contradictions!
4. Know that you don’t need to defend yourself or give a full explanation of your current thoughts on faith to anyone.
This one might feel particularly hard if you have family or friends who are anxious about your shifting faith. As difficult as it might be, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your faith. You are allowed to choose who and when and how you share your story with others. Be empowered to set gentle but firm boundaries as necessary.
And if no one has asked, but you have a constant defensive narrative running through your mind, give yourself so much grace, and come back to the safety of your own soul.
5. Hold on to the practices that keep you feeling grounded and safe.
In a week in which you might find yourself “triggered” by multiple events or conversations, it is important to know what will help you come back to a place of inner safety. What are the practices that allow you to re-centre, to trust yourself, to encounter the Divine in all their sacred mystery?
If you’re not sure what that looks like, perhaps begin with a simple breath prayer. Pick a short phrase that will bring you back to safety, and slowly repeat it 3-5 times as you breathe in and out, for example: “I don’t need to have all the answers; I am held in the sacred mystery”, or, “When I am feeling lost, I am carried home to Love”.
If you are in the midst of a faith deconstruction and looking for a safe space to process all that that means for you, then perhaps my Faith Shift spiritual direction groups are for you. Running over ten weeks, we journey together through common themes of faith shifts, bearing sacred witness to our own spiritual journeys and the ways we are changing and expanding.
New groups are starting in September 2023.