On Deconstruction

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of demolition: tearing things down, breaking them apart. Smashing, crushing, detonating. It seems cathartic. Swinging a big hammer and really breaking down walls. Tear down the supporting beams of a structure, and it will collapse.

What I’ve been experiencing over the last few weeks, though, does not feel like demolition. It feels like a deconstruction.

I’ve always been very good at disassembling things. When I was young, my Papa would give me old and broken mechanical things, electronic things, motors and engines and gears and circuits. He’d let me experiment and play and test my intellect and motor skills. Back then, I couldn’t really fix things–when you’re seven years old, you don’t really worry much about putting the things back together afterwards–but I’ve always had a knack for taking things apart and seeing how they work. What makes this cartridge lock into place? What sequence powers this circuit? Why is this cylinder losing compression? Even then, I always had this sense that with enough time, and the right tools, I could fix anything.

Twenty-five years later, I think that’s still true. I’m still good at disassembling things, but now I can actually diagnose the problems, think analytically and mechanically, repair things, and reassemble them in working order. Sometimes due to the disposable nature of the items we keep in our homes, as well as the high cost of replacement parts, it’s not cost-effective to do so. Even so, it’s liberating to know that if I so desired, I could probably manage most repairs.

What’s new to me, though, is applying those same principles to my own life. What makes me tick? What keeps these mental cogs spinning smoothly, as opposed to grinding to a halt? What has gone wrong?

Mechanical things are not all that different from our own minds and hearts in some ways. The initial build quality has a lot to do with how long something will last, and how well it will perform. This calls to mind the story of the foundations of sand and stone. In the same way that a cheaply-made good will be more prone to disrepair than a well-made one, so too is my own psyche. I have suffered from depression and anxiety, and I have felt anger and sadness that I allowed to overwhelm my heart. My diagnosis of what ailed me? My foundation was made of mere sand.

Today, I feel differently. In Isaiah, it is written, “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed'” (Isaiah 28:16). Once I understood the purpose of that cornerstone and my relationship with Him, I could begin to rebuild my psyche, and my life, on something more solid. It has done my heart good, but I can only begin there.

The other factor in the utility of a mechanical good is how carefully it is treated, and how well it is maintained. Think of an internal combustion engine. It is a complicated thing that needs constant maintenance: oil to lubricate, detergent to keep chambers clean, fresh fluids to avoid buildup. If you run them too hot or too hard or too long without maintenance, you can throw rods, warp heads, blow gaskets, crack blocks. We are no different. I have written before about constantly practicing Christianity, and this is the maintenance required to keep me running smoothly. Prayer, readings, thoughtfulness and mindfulness. Even practicing kindness and gentleness and love for my neighbors keeps all the parts clicking together.

And, I know that if I go too long without service, it could spell problems.

Ultimately, what I’ve been working on over these last weeks is probably somewhere between a deconstruction and a demolition. I had to break myself down to understand from where my problems originated, and then tear it down even further to rebuild a foundation. In the end, the exterior may look the same, but I don’t think I’m really the same person. I’m new, and I hope to keep this version of myself running until the wheels fall off.

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again'” (John 3:3).

 

 

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