But why does this feel so painful? What’s the mechanism by which God builds us?
Consider: why do people tear their homes apart for remodels? Is it because they love discomfort and chaos? No, but because they love the picture of what their house will be when the madness of construction is finished. They endure significant inconvenience for the end goal.
C.S. Lewis - Mere Christianity – Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense.
What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words.
If we let Him — for we can prevent Him, if we choose — He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.
This is literal de-construction. A very different form of the word than Derrida taught, but a description that fits our experience. What happens to the one who endures such a soul-building project? The “energy and joy” Lewis outlines. The Israelites had been in captivity - slaves of Babylon - for 70 years and finally began returning home when this Psalm was written:
Psalm 126:1-6 - When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes, Lord, like streams in the [desert]. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.
Community Soul Building
When the Israrelites returned from captivity and being slaves to the Babylonians, Jerusalem had been razed to the ground, that is, de-constructed. Nehemiah remained in captivity but heard the reports:
Nehemiah 1:3b-4 - And they said to me, “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire. As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
How many of us in times of deconstruction feel “broken down… destroyed by fire”?
Over time, Nehemiah makes it back to Jerusalem on a mission to restore:
Nehemiah 2:17-18 - Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
After the wall is finished, Ezra the priest stands and reads the first five books of the bible all day:
Nehemiah 8:9c - “all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.”
Do we see? Deconstruction reconstructs the heart - makes it sensitive to God and his ways again. The positively deconstructed begin to see sin in their lives they never knew it existed. They suddenly pray in sincere earnestness for God to remove the sin they’ve always known about… and he actually begins doing it. And they begin to have confidence in him. And wonder.
In the end, the wall is rebuilt. So, too, are the positively deconstructed put back together. And what is the result? Exactly what Psalm 126 describes. When the Israelites finished rebuilding the wall there was great celebration:
Nehemiah 12:43 - And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.