I’ve been going through a lot of emotions this past week. Just over a week ago, the world lost a beautiful voice in the faith community, and I’ve been struggling with how to mourn her. There are so many more eloquent posts that have been written by Rachel in the past week, but I felt compelled to share what she meant to me as well.
I met Rachel Held Evans at a youth conference in 2012. I had never heard of her prior to that weekend, but I enjoyed her talks and even had the opportunity to speak with her for a little bit one day. She was just so down-to-earth and genuine – I liked her immediately. Upon returning home from the conference I looked her up on social media and began following her on Twitter and Facebook. I looked back over my photos from that weekend and I was so sad to discover I hadn’t asked to have my picture taken with her (I suspect my natural awe of any published author, coupled with the fact that I hadn’t read her books and therefore wasn’t sure what do talk to her about probably made me extremly awkward during that single conversation, and precluded me from requesting a photo).
Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of comfort from Rachel’s voice in my various social media feeds. When you begin to discover that you don’t always agree with the dominant conservative Christian viewpoint, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone. Through Rachel I learned that I wasn’t alone, that there were so many other Christians out there like me, experiencing the same things I was. There have been times when I’ve thought about turning from Christianity, because I just couldn’t deal with the cruelty and the hypocrisy I saw so frequently, but Rachel’s voice would remind me that not all Believer’s are the same.
The last couple years when talking about Rachel I’ve often described her as “my sanity.” She was the one I looked to when I thought maybe the world had officially gone crazy and hers was always the voice in my timeline helping bring things back into perspective. She also gave us hope. In her own words, “It might not look like it now, but the Resistance is winning.” I grabbed onto those words from Inspired, and have held them close for the past year.
I own copies of all of Rachel’s books, but with the exception of Inspired (which I’ve read twice) they all sat on my TBR pile for years. As an avid bibliophile I’ve always had a bad habit of purchasing books with every intention of reading them, but always having too many to get to them all. I knew I would love her books, and I bought every one, but it always seemed like there would be more time. I had here in my media feeds every day, so I wasn’t in as much of a hurry to read the books, because she wasn’t going anywhere. Or so I thought. Last week I sat down with Searching for Sunday, then went straight into Evolving in Monkey Town and now I’m halfway through A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Rachel’s books are so full of wit and wisdom – I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Each of these books is just as incredible as I knew they would be, but I am so deeply saddened that it took me until now to create the time to read them. I feel like I missed out on a much fuller understanding of who Rachel was, and where she was coming from. Yes, I loved everything I was reading by her online – but I didn’t get the full experience until it was too late. And I’m so heartbroken to know that I won’t get that chance to actually meet her again and tell her in person what she has meant to me over the years.
Rachel Held Evans inspired me. Her writing and her voice taught me that the path I was taking with my faith wasn’t a wrong turn or a misdirection – that loving people and standing up for the marginalized was an important part of our lives as Christians. She was smart and funny, and we had so much in common. Even though we had only met that one time, I considered her a mentor and spiritual leader. I respected her so very much, and I am so very grateful for all she gave us.
Even now she continues to inspire me. After reading through Searching for Sunday I decided it was time to start doing my own deeper study of the Bible, to learn and understand more about what it is I believe and why.
I take comfort now in knowing that though Rachel herself is gone, her words and her legacy will live on. I hope someday her children are able to read all the messages and blogs and memorials people have written this past week and know how much their mom meant to so many people.
Eshet chayil—woman of valor.