I have been meeting a lot of people recently (both in real life and also virtually, via social media) who are feeling unsettled and unsure in this whole process of breaking down and questioning their faith. Each stage of the deconstruction journey can bring a wide range of emotions, and it’s different for each of us. For me, vulnerability, fear, sadness, anger, and anxiety are among the major characters in the cast that I’ve come to know in this journey through faith de- and re-construction.
This morning as I was thinking of a word that could possibly encompass all of these feelings, summarizing everything I’ve felt through my journey thus far, the word ‘unfettered’ came to mind. If you are from a similar faith tradition as mine, you probably immediately think of the reverse: “fettered” or “fetter” … and then perhaps you might start singing or humming these lines:
“Let thy goodness like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love…”
I used to sing these lines with abandon. Arms raised high, eyes closed, I would pray these lyrics, pleading with God to keep me close so that I would not stray away. The absolute WORST possible scenario in my imagination was what would happen were I to leave the God I love.
And yet, here I am.
I have left that God. I have left that faith tradition. I have wandered, and continue to wander.
I am unfettered.
But here’s the thing: the unfettering is beautiful, and I would argue, it is also absolutely necessary in order to have a true connection with the Divine. Have you ever stopped to wonder what that word even means? I looked it up again this morning, and was once again reminded that a fetter is “a chain or manacle used to restrain a prisoner, typically placed around the ankles.” (Merriam-Webster)
If you come from a faith tradition like mine, you have most likely been far too long fettered to a God who restrains. A God who crafted the chains with the desire to confine, to limit, to suppress. A faith that is constricting and choking in its rules and regulations that you must follow in order to be called among the faithful. Perhaps you have walked away from a community that revels in this suppression – one in which the quelching of voices has far too long kept people in the margins, merely for their gender, their identity, the color of their skin, their nationality, their expression.
From all of this, I say: We NEED to be unfettered.
So unbind your heart, my dear friend.
Let it wander untamed.