Rebuilding a Lawnmower “With” My Dad

Regrettably, my father hasn’t explicitly taught me much, as he seldom spoke. Most of what I’ve learned from him came through observation. On a few occasions, when I received guidance from him, I adhered to it closely. I wouldn’t necessarily label him as wise and certainly not a spiritual man, but what he did, he did exceedingly well.

My father was an outstanding mechanic, capable of fixing anything. This is a skill he relished but one that I didn’t inherit in the same way (something I have always regretted).

I was intrigued with my father. I knew very little about his past. What I did know, I knew only from what my mother would tell me. He was a quiet, somber man, as we’re so many from his generation. When I was young, I wanted to be everything he was. When I got older, all I wanted to do was make him proud.

On one rare occasion where my father and I were driving some place, I mustered some courage and I asked him how he learned to fix things so well. He looked at me  and with his demeaning voice said,  “Mac [the name he called me], you just take things apart and put them back together.” I asked when he learned this. He said, “I started with a lawn mower when I was twelve. I wanted to know how it worked so I took it apart and put it back together. I do this over and over with everything until I figure it out.”

Though I’ve never applied this to something like a lawnmower, I’ve embraced this principle throughout my life. Continuously, I’m taking things apart and putting them back together again in my head. I’m deconstructing and reconstructing things in my mind. This process extends deeply into my faith. I take apart things I believe and reassemble them repeatedly.

I’m grateful to my father for teaching me this practice, referred to in theology as “deconstruction.”

A New Perspective on Faith

For those familiar with my ministry, you know that I’ve dedicated myself to the process of deconstructing and reconstructing faith. It’s not about dismantling belief but strengthening it through an honest examination. Let’s explore why this process, though challenging, leads to a deeper connection with Jesus Christ.

Understanding Deconstruction: Why It Matters

1. Deconstruction and Confirmation: Deconstruction is a process that requires us to question everything we believe. It’s not about destroying faith but understanding it. It’s about embracing uncertainty and being open to the possibility that we might be wrong. The desire for confirmation isn’t wrong, but when it becomes the only goal, faith becomes weak and fragile.

2. Facing the Fear of Being Wrong: What if everything you’ve grown up believing turns out to be false? It’s a terrifying thought. Yet, this fear is why deconstruction is often avoided. But facing this fear, opening ourselves to all possibilities, leads to a more robust and resilient faith.

3. True Faith vs. Nominal Christianity: Nominal Christianity – a faith in name only – is pervasive today. Deconstruction helps us examine what we believe and why. It challenges nominal faith and pushes us towards a more genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.

Defining Faith: A Historical and Philosophical Perspective

1. Faith as Evidence-Based Belief: If faith is seen as something believed without evidence, then deconstruction may appear negative. But this modern perspective differs from historical Christian understanding. Faith has always been something believed because of evidence, not despite it.

2. Faith in Everyday Life: From trusting our car to get us safely to our destination to believing in a lifelong marriage, faith permeates our daily lives. We live by faith, not certainty. But that doesn’t mean we cannot fully commit to our beliefs.

The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Footprint of Faith

The resurrection of Christ stands as a monumental event in Christianity. It’s a testament to faith that is not blind but based on substantial historical evidence. It’s an example of how our belief is not in spite of evidence but because of it.

Deconstruction and Reconstruction: A Personal Journey

Deconstruction can be painful, but it’s necessary. With the right guidance and intention, not only can faith be reconstructed, but it will emerge stronger. It’s a step into deeper understanding and commitment. It’s about taking that step of faith into deconstruction, knowing that it’s a journey towards truth, not away from it.

Conclusion: Take Apart Your Lawn Mower and Put it Back Together

Deconstructing faith isn’t about tearing down but building up. It’s a path that leads us to a more profound understanding of our faith, a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, and a more authentic Christian life. Let’s not shy away from this journey, but embrace it with open hearts and minds, ready to discover the truth that God has laid before.

Maybe it is here that my dad’s life was most meaningful in a place he didn’t know. He died shortly after he told me about the lawn mower. But I didn’t need this story to learn this principle from him. I watched him all the time. Thank you Dad.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

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