2020: Deconstructing My Faith, Dealing with Depression, and Discovering Honesty

The Buildup

The story actually starts in 2018 when I moved to the great city of Houston. I had just gotten married to my best friend and couldn’t have been happier about that, but just about everything else in my life was chaos. Transitioning from a small town to a bustling city combined with the transition from college to the workforce would’ve been chaotic enough, but we had also just experienced a significant relational betrayal from some very close mentors. To say I was in pain was an understatement.

Asking the First Questions

I never set out to question or dismantle my faith, but when I started to realize the answers I had been given growing up were no longer satisfactory, I didn’t have much choice. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have said my Christian faith was the most important thing about me. It was my entire identity, my worldview, my way of connecting with people. Yet the questions were unrelenting. Here are some of them:

  • Question 1: Original sin. One of the seemingly foundational tenets of my faith — the concept of “original sin” — was first on the stand for questioning. Original sin refers to the idea that since the “fall of man” in Genesis 3, every human being is born with an evil/sinful nature and is deserving of judgment and wrath from God. This idea was at the root of so much of my self-hatred, and I could no longer ignore it. I had a choice to make — I could start questioning and risk going down the “slippery slope” of doubt, or I could shove down my questions and risk being depressed for the rest of my life. For maybe the first time ever, I chose myself. And I started questioning.
  • Question 2: Hell. Quickly after breaking down original sin came questions about hell. Did God really send people to eternal conscious torment if they didn’t pledge allegiance set of beliefs or say the magic words (sinnner’s prayer) that only Christians have gotten right? I was always taught “God is love” but it was quickly followed by “….but he’s also just!” as an explanation for hell. For me, the idea of God being love and sending people to eternal torment could no longer coexist.
  • Question 3: Substitutionary atonement. This is a big one. Why did God need to kill Jesus in order to forgive us? Why couldn’t he just forgive? The idea that God had to have a blood sacrifice like a pagan deity demanding its subjects kill their children to avoid his inevitable wrath was suddenly not adding up. Since I was already doubting original sin, I had a lot of questions about if and why Jesus had to die.

George Floyd

Keep in mind, all of this was still in 2020. In the midst of all my questions, I was completely unprepared for the emotional chaos that the cruel, horrific death of Houston native George Floyd caused me. It opened up a whole new world of questions — what is systemic racism? How have I participated? Why have we never talked about this before? How can I name my privilege and still help somehow? And where in the world is the church in all this?

As I marched in a Black Lives Matter protest, I was completely shocked to feel that somehow I was closer to God than I had ever been.

When I look back on the times I have personally experienced God’s presence in my lifetime, it is hard to name many. But as I marched in a Black Lives Matter protest, I was completely shocked to feel that somehow I was closer to God than I had ever been. In the energy of the crowd shouting, “No justice, no peace!” I experienced a God who cares about the oppressed and longs for justice. And this is the God that I have decided to search for.

Settled in Uncertainty

To be honest, I have not been able to find answers to all my questions. My anger has mostly subsided, yet burning questions remain. However, I have become completely comfortable with not knowing. I have realized that the person who needs to be certain and right about everything is not the person I want to be.

  • Family/friends who already know about my journey: To all of you, I love you, and thank you for loving me unconditionally while giving me space to be honest.
  • Friends I haven’t seen in a while: I value the role each of you have played in my life. If this article has piqued your interest, I invite you to explore whether you have questions of your own in your faith journey.
  • Friends who resonate with a similar journey/feel exiled for asking questions about faith: There is light in the midst of deconstruction and mental illness and questioning. I’m here to offer space and friendship to you, not the answers. Feel free to reach out at abigail.j.womack@gmail.com — I would love to connect!

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Abbie Joy Womack

Abbie Joy Womack

Ice cream lover. Dog mom. Registered dietitian. Downtown HTX city dweller.