“The work…is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other, and to be stretched large by them.” ~ Frances Weller*
All who knew, read, or heard Rachel Held Evans are reeling right now–stunned, shell-shocked, speechless, raw, overwhelmed, grieving. It’s a tragic loss, and the ripples of her life will spill out for generations to come. I originally met Rachel when she first started blogging; she has been one of the most generous supporters of both Down We Go and Faith Shift, and I cannot count the number of people who I have had the joy of becoming friends with through her support of The Refuge. Rachel asked me to do some guest posts a chunk of years ago, and I still talk about the comments on Insecure Christians (I mentioned original blessing and whoa, look out!) and Anger is Not a Sin. She wrote a beautiful piece about our little wild faith community in Searching for Sunday, and all these years I have watched her use her voice and platform for good.
She was the real deal, a woman of courage, strength, vulnerability, compassion, and integrity.
I am heart-broken for all of us. For her husband, her kids, her family, all those who knew her in real life, and everyone who was touched virtually and through the words she wrote on books that transformed, healed, and moved so many to new places in faith, life, ministry, and practice. She was dearly loved.
We will all honor Rachel’s life in the months and years to come—with our courage, our honesty, our advocacy, our faith in what could be, with tenacity, with grace, with hope.
I have no doubt that her legacy will live on through all of the people her life infused and challenged.
I know she will continue to inspire me to live more bravely and more clearly, to continue to advocate for equality and justice and de-colonization of the church, to keep pursuing a more expansive image of God and the weird, wild body of Christ, and most of all to keep fanning the hope of the future generation into flame since so many my age and older jacked a lot of it up.
Many more posts will come from so many, but yesterday morning, I woke up thinking of some of the things we’ll all keep saying about her.
Here are a few:
She elevated others before herself. She used her platform to give voice to others, to honor their work, to spread their love, to help the world hear their stories and wisdom. This is a rare quality in the world of Christian leadership, and no one embodied it better than Rachel.
She stood up to bullies. She said what need to be said, called out the dysfunction, and spoke the truth in love–over and over and over again. (Oh, and she rocked Twitter).
She inspired people with her words. Each and every time she wrote—a blog post, some thoughts on Twitter, a book—people reading were stirred, challenged, inspired, transformed. For so many, her words were a lifeline.
She challenged people to advocate for justice in tangible ways. She took hits for her passion for LGBT+, racial, and gender equality, but she also challenged so many to reconsider our views, recognize our privilege, and embody justice not just talk about it.
She was grounded in peace and compassion. Everyone felt it when we were with her, a sense of groundedness, integration, strength, and love for God and people.
She helped heal hurting souls and re-kindle their faith. For so many who were exiting the systems they once gave their hearts to, life was hard and scary. Filled with doubt and confusion, she gave language that soothed souls, that helped us say “me, too” and opened up the possibility of a wider more expansive view of God.
She was wicked smart and really funny. Not only could she take on any theological argument, but she could make everyone laugh, too, by always connecting us to our shared humanity.
She is the reason so many women are freely leading. She opened the doors for so many women across ages and experiences to step into their gifts, their passion. They saw her do it, and it made them brave, too. She helped many break through huge barriers in ministry, which created a new wave of leaders who will continue to change the world, the church.
She changed the future of the church. What she inspired and challenged people with helped create a different kind of leadership that brought new dreams to fruition. Healthier, more inclusive, grounded, and innovative communities were birthed from some of her words.
She will live on in so many new dreams. The grief everyone feels now will be transformed into love, mercy, justice in so many different ways. Her legacy, her heart, her spirit, her passion, her courage, her wisdom, her tenacity, her embodying-of-a-better-way will be infused into so many new dreams.
There are many more, and as we keep holding our grief and our gratitude together, I know this—so much for me and so many will be #becauseofRHE.
Love from the San Diego airport tonight. My heart is with all of you hurting, too.
*My dear friend read this quote yesterday at a memorial service for a long-time friend who died at 55 after a short battle with cancer. It was just what I needed to hear. It’s definitely been a grief weekend, and I am a bit wrung out but I did just buy the book it’s in–The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Frances Weller. It looks like it’s filled with all kinds of goodness.