My freshman year of college, I took a life-changing course called Learning How to Learn, or something very close to that. It was an Honors Colloquium which combined the disciplines of English, math, science, and psychology for freshmen. I remember being shocked by some of the things they gave us to read about evolution, about the nature of truth… It seemed to me that our professors were deliberately giving us materials that would lead us away from the church—or at least make us question it thoroughly. I still do not know if that was their objective, but I do know, after teaching a freshman class myself, that critical thinking is a Dangerous course to teach because it can definitely lead to little revolutions.
Even now, with a Masters in English and three years of university teaching behind me, I can see how distinctly unique this class was. And later I realized that the critical thinking skills I obtained in this class, the connections I learned to make, eventually assisted me in the utter and completely destructive war I waged upon my faith during my twenties. In a search for truth and integrity, in the interest of living an honest life, I single-handedly cut down every tenet of truth I had held dear through my most formative years.
And, of course, it was only in the aftermath of that destruction that I was able to see that in the course of destroying ties to ideals that did not hold up under scrutiny, ideals that seemed impossibly beautiful and miraculous to me because they were fictions, I had also destroyed my very happiness and peace of mind.
So, the trajectory of my life has been the simple, clean faith of my teen years; the destruction of the faith in the pursuit of Truth in my twenties; and the reconstruction of my very soul in my thirties.
My children have a book about forest fires. Forest fires are a necessary, if not happy, way to clear forests for new growth and new life. After forest fires have decimated every dead branch or blade of grass in the forest, and choked to death every animal who could not escape, it must lie barren and wrecked for years before the first tiny buds of grass return and the forest begins to rebuild itself. It has taken me years to realize that the forest of my spirituality is not, in fact, dead as I had suspected. It was merely dormant in the aftermath of that destruction for nearly eight years.