"No longer satisfied with easy answers, I started asking harder questions." -RHE
Today the world woke up to the news that Rachel Held Evans (known simply by the acronym of RHE), a popular progressive Christian author died at the young age of 37! I literally gasped then cried for a solid hour as my husband watch and asked, "Liz, what what happened?" I couldn't even get it out. Eventually I explained, "a woman who impacted my life greatly is dead."
It was just a few weeks ago, on April 14th when she sent a tweet out into the twitterverse that she was at the hospital with a bad reaction to antibiotics and she was bummed she was going to miss Game of Thrones. Today, I had to re-read the statement her husband had posted on the medical update blog that was started to keep her fans and followers abreast of her condition. Reporters have already tried to encapsulate the life and impact that was RHE...Washington Post, Religion News Service, and others.
RHE had a profound impact on my spiritual journey. She was there when I was asking the questions many others were asking and made me feel welcomed in a world of uncertainty. Troubling for a person who was told all her life that when it came to her theology x equaled y with certainty. I don't remember how I found her but I remember that I was grateful I had. Finding her helped me find another tribe that have kept me believing in God even while in deconstruction. Additionally, I was honored to be on book launch team for her last book, Inspired. But this post is not written to do what others are already doing. They are much better qualified for that. What I want to do is ask a question.
What can we learn from this particular life gone too soon?
We are all used to talking about the great impact of people after they leave us. It's what we do and yes, it is honorable to do that. But as I reflect on the life of RHE, I believe we need to reflect on what she did that moved us so and then commit to doing the next right thing, in this way, we keep her legacy alive.
One of the biggest things I admired about her was her guts. I didn't know her personally, so I can't speak to the characteristics of her persona that someone up close could. But as a distant observer of her life, as a reader of her books, I can say this young 37 year old woman had the guts to go up against the machine that we know of as white evangelicalism without flinching. She was going to battle before any of us know there was a war going on. She was writing fighting words before anyone even knew she was there. But then one day, everyone noticed. Who is this RHE? She's fighting for truth. She's fighting for inclusion. She's fighting for the right to ask questions that we were told should never be asked. She was saying it is ok to leave what you have always known because it no longer feeds your soul and makes no theological sense. We found in her a champion. We found in her a warrior. We found in her a person who was willing to take the hard hits for US so that the dialogue could stay open. So that the "machine of evangelicalism" could take notice that she was not merely speaking for herself but many.
Here's what I think we can learn from her life gone too soon...
There will never be an RHE. That is the beauty of the way God creates us. Unique in design. Distinct in our contribution to the world. But now as we mourn the incredible, courageous life of this life gone too soon, as we sit with our feelings trying to understand yet again, how this fits into God's story for our world, we have to ask ourselves what part of Rachel will I take with me as I continue to walk the path of Jesus as people of the way. What part of her work will I pick up and add to? How can I in my own simple way honor her memory?
What would you say you can learn from this life gone too soon?
When we feel a tug on our heart and a stirring in our soul for more that is usually God's way of getting our attention. The thing is, once He has it, He will also usually point us in a direction that is way outside of our comfort zone. And if we are honest, we are often afraid to venture past our comfort zone, aren't we? Outside our comfort zone is where we experience the true awesomeness of God. Just take the plunge and say yes!
That one word has an extraordinary power to change our life forever and have eternal consequences.“By an act of faith, Abraham said YES to God's call to travel to an unknown place that would become his home. When he left he had no idea where he was going!” (Heb. 11:8, MSG)
When I have tried to say yes to the many things I feel God leading me to do, I’ve always felt way out of my comfort zone. I have said yes to things that turned out to be amazing and some things that turned out to be flops. However, all of my yes's were lessons and although, I may have had a hard time with some of them, I regret none of them. Thank goodness I am not the only one who said yes to something with no clue about where it would lead or where I was I going.
If you read through the Bible about all the men and women who decided to say “yes” to God, you will find that it was always a task that came with a side of crazy. Let’s see, there was:
Noah had the choice of building an ark or not. He said yes!
Moses stood before the burning bush, knowing that listening to God would put his life in danger. He said yes!
Mary, in the midst of what was perceived to be a scandalous situation, said yes and broke out into song singing, “my soul magnifies the Lord.”
Though I don’t exactly recall saying yes quickly or busting out in Elizabeth’s Magnificat, I did say yes. All of us who say yes to this crazy, rollercoaster ride called church planting, that first pulpit preaching, leave our jobs and trust God for our income or anything else for the kingdom have entered into an extraordinary faith journey. We are saying yes to the story He is creating in our hearts and through our abilities, dreams, and faithfulness. It’s not just a special story—it’s an extraordinary one that each of us, with God, will experience together.
God asks plain, ordinary people like you and me to join Him in an adventure. He finds us in overlooked places and expects us to do extraordinary things. God issues us an invitation to a fuller life that makes a difference.
By saying, “yes” to God we are essentially saying that He is the most important thing in our lives, and that we trust Him even though we have no idea how things will turn out or where we will end up. I most recently said yes to being on a national council (to be revealed later) that I honestly didn't feel qualified for mostly because I'm a brown girl in a white world and imposter syndrome creeps up when we say yes to walk into the spaces where we usually don't see too many that look like us. However, saying yes will be your greatest act of faith on this journey.
It took me longer than it should have to say “yes,” to my most recent invitation and when I think of it, many others. As I look back now, with the perspective that comes with time, I realize that God has been asking me to trust Him even when I couldn’t trace Him. I also know I got to this point because a single “yes” naturally leads to the next one.
By continually saying yes to God, we can have the satisfaction of knowing that we made a life-altering decision that will have eternal consequences not only for our own lives, but also for the generations that follow us and for every person that we come into contact with through the work that we do for the kingdom.
Remember that fact when the work gets tough, when the world gets colder and when the ones that were supposed to be by your side walk away. The satisfaction you will experience is similar to that of the Apostle Paul who near the end of his life, knew he had “fought the good fight, finished the race. and kept the faith.”
So let’s celebrate that we went beyond our comfort zone and said yes to God. We are a group of world changers even if no one ever knows our name beyond our local tribe. By saying yes, you altered destiny. Lives have been and will be transformed. Hell will lose souls while heaven will gain them. Light will win over darkness. And that, my dear friends, is all because of the life-altering, eternal consequence of one simple word…YES.