The first time I came across this word was during the final English exam of my schooling. It was in a question about Shakespeare’s Hamlet that I can’t remember for the life of me, but that word stuck. I had no idea what it meant then, but over a decade later, it’s one of my favourite words.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines disillusionment as “a feeling of being disappointed and unhappy because of discovering the truth about something or someone that you liked or respected.”
Disillusionment is like the veil has been lifted off and we are left seeing that the big, powerful wizard is just a projection made by an old man in a small room speaking into a microphone and pulling levers (Wizard of Oz reference).
Disillusionment can be incredibly shaking. But it can also be incredibly freeing.
In these last few months, I have been purposefully exploring the concept of epistemology – how we know what we know. It has led to a lot of questions. And disillusionment.
If I am honest though, I would say that I have actually been going through this for a few years now.
It began when my perception of an organisation I was a part of and wholly devoted myself to was completely shattered.
This questioning has been uncomfortable at times.
It is quite terrifying when you are no longer as convinced by something you would once bet your life on. It’s like walking on a bridge only to look down and see there is nothing under your feet. Okay, maybe it’s not always so dramatic. But it is unsettling.
It is unsettling when you realise that you do certain things because you are trying to compensate for something that makes you feel lesser. It is unsettling when you come to look that thing in the eye and realise that what you’re trying to hide from is the person looking back at you in the mirror. It’s unsettling when you realise a group you’ve disassociated from are people just like you with the same core longings and desires, and you find yourself relating deeply to them on that core level.
Disillusionment is unsettling. But it is also freeing.
It is so freeing when boxes of thinking crumble. No longer are we hedged into one way of thinking, but we can now see things in new ways; ways that can greatly enrich our view and lives.
Personally, I have found that I am seeing God in a new light. Or perhaps a new shadow, as it has felt like I have been going through a dark hallway. As I go along, opening doors and seeing things about others, I realise I am actually seeing something about myself I have been avoiding. But in these dark spaces, I find God.
Exodus 20:21 is becoming a key passage for me this year (I also like how the chapter and verse are 2021 – serendipitous, no?).
The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. (ESV)
God is not afraid of the darkness.
He is not afraid of lifting the curtain to see what is behind and the disillusionment it brings. He is not afraid of the shadows in my heart or the “ugly” parts of me I have been suppressing. He is not afraid of the things about this world I have been avoiding because I have considered them “bad”.
He isn’t afraid of those things. But I am.
And yet, here I am at a place where I am looking at those things. Whether by personal choice, circumstance, or God’s divine hand at work (let’s face it, it’s most likely His hand), I am forced to confront things I have been avoiding.
And it sucks. At times it really, really sucks.
And I would really like to say it will all work out in the end, but I am still in the middle of this thing so I’m not sure.
But I have this hope that it will, and I imagine Jesus next to me (with that knowing smile He always seems to have whenever I think of His expression) suggesting the same thing.
One thing I am increasingly being convinced of is that it is okay to be in this place. It is okay to question the things we think we know and to find out that they are not that way. It is okay to be disillusioned and to grieve what we once knew. It is okay to even question things about our faith and God, because He is so much bigger than any question we could ever ask.
He is not afraid of the darkness and to sit with us in it. Psalm 139:8 says that if we make our bed in hell, He is there.
God is with us in the questioning and the disillusionment, and He does not hide Himself from us or whatever comes up in it. He hides Himself in it, allowing us to find Him and encounter His love in ways we would not have otherwise.
So, if you’re going through a time of questioning and disillusionment like me, embrace it. Embrace it for what it is. Take it as it comes, be kind to yourself in the process, and let God love you as you face things you may have been avoiding.
There is no place His love cannot go (Romans 8:38-39)1, and He will sit with us in the darkness for however long it takes. He is not in a rush to get out of this, so why should we be?
I want to sign off by saying “Bless you”, but that almost sounds too cliché. So, I’ll simply say keep going. You have my broken, disillusioned, and at times angry, love with you on this journey.
1 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39, ESV)