"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?