It’s weird to mourn the death of someone you’ve never met.
It’s weird to be so sad over the loss of someone who you’ve never shared words with… but whose words you hold so dear. A friend put it best, after the tragic passing of Rachel Held Evans this weekend – writers feel like mentors. Their words matter to us, their lives feel intertwined with ours. Their joy, our joy. Their pain, our pain. Their death… it’s unimaginable.
It feels unfair. It feels unjust. A women so godly – surely, God would heal? A woman so prayed for, surely God would answer the prayers of thousands across the world? She had so much more work to do. She had babies to raise. She had a marriage to see age. She had conferences to plan and people to mentor and – selfishly – she had more books to write for people like me to read. She had thoughts that still needed sharing, words still in her our world needed to hear.
My boyfriend always says everything is a blessing, nothing is a curse. I remind myself that on my worst days, when life feels unbearable and unfair and unending – God never curses us, sometimes we simply get different blessings than others.
For class I had to read an author who discussed the idea of health not being the expectation – but the gift. What if we weren’t upset when we got sick, but rather grateful every time we are healthy? What if we expect disease and rejoice when we don’t experience it? This reframes so much of life.
It was a blessing Rachel lived this long. It was a blessing her words were magic to so many’s ears. It was a blessing she had two babies. It was a blessing she found a husband as dear as hers. So many blessings in her life, which somehow cruelly, makes this cut so deep.
Rachel was a fierce Truth teller with a tender heart. She didn’t shy away from hard conversations; she didn’t shy away from facts. She stepped into the mess most of us were afraid – or uninvited – to. She was loud and sassy and angry – and yet always loving. She shouted and she rolled her eyes and she grieved – but she always stayed hopeful. She had this Light inside of her that she refused to dim, and it led her to call out the hypocrisy and ugliness that so many have ignored. She walked the walk and she put herself on the line and she again and again and again brought it back to the Truth. She inspires me to remain curious. To remain loving. To reach out when it would be easier to shut myself in. She inspires me to write through my questions and write through my doubts and to live life – all of life – together. She inspires me to take chances and take risks and always, always follow where the Spirit leads. Wait for the spirit. Wait for the spirit. Wait for the spirit. And then faithfully follow.
I can’t put into words the impact a woman like Rachel made in the world of evangelicalism. So many girls like me came of age with a woman making headlines for questions, for political thoughts, for theology. We saw a woman handle the Bible like it was meant for her. We saw a woman reclaim Christianity for what it should be. I don’t know if I would have ever started writing if it weren’t for voices like hers. I don’t know if I would be in seminary. I don’t know if would love the sweet mess the Church is – or if I, too, would have become jaded by the Machine.
There will be few like her, but we need to raise them up. Rachel raised up a whole generation of us who might otherwise hate the church. Who might have lost faith in both Christianity and the God behind it. There are thousands of us, because of her, who want to see the Church as she should be – and we get to follow in Rachel’s footsteps and raise the banner of love we know we are called to, working to bring heaven to earth just as she did in small ways each and every day.
Friends texted me all day Saturday, ” have you heard?” “did you see?” It wasn’t the same as when you see a celebrity death in the news and make small talk about it – “so crazy!” “wow!” “so sad, gone too soon…”
This was personal. This was felt. It wasn’t a headline-away grief or a wow, sad, moving on kind of moment. This affected our lives. This grieved our souls.
Social media is always a strange beast, but this weekend it was even more so – a collective place to gather for all of us who felt like we knew this woman, as well as those who actually did. My timeline – all three – was filled with her image, pictures of her book, quotes of her wisdom. People paying tribute to their dear friend or dear author alike. It was gut wrenching, every time I opened my phone, to be reminded of this pain. To be reminded of two babies now without their mother, a husband now without his wife. Thinking of that, it feels silly to feel sad for us – when we want another book or another blog or even another tweet. They just want their normal life.
In church on Sunday we discussed what a beautiful word hallelujah is – the highest praise – and how we don’t use it enough. How we should work it into our day to day more often.
So, in our grieving, in our mourning, I’m also making room for a hallelujah. The highest praise for a life so well lived. The highest praise for a soul so genuine. The highest praise for a woman who did the hard work on behalf of so many. It’s not a curse her life ended so early, it was a blessing she graced our lives at all.
You can read more of Rachel’s words at her blog (her last post is so poignant & this one has been a forever favorite of mine) or any of her books – or read more about her legacy in other’s words by checking out #becauseofRHE on any social media platform (bring tissues). You can also financially support her family during this tragedy here.