‘I FEEL LIKE I’VE LOST A FRIEND’
By AMY BOONE
It’s been only two hours since I heard the news of Rachel Held Evans’ death. I was walking to my car after browsing a vintage market following the always inspiring and delightful CASA Superhero 5K. All week this day had been taunting me with its potential for fun and adventure. A couple of texts buzzed my pocket. I hopped into the car and read the news. I immediately began crying. Pulling away, I realized I was crying too hard to drive safely. I turned into a parking lot and sobbed. After exhausting all the tissues in the car, I headed home abandoning the rest of the plans I’d had for the day.
“I don’t even know her, but this feels so personal. I am heartbroken…”
“As strange as it may be to grieve someone I never met, I felt that I knew her through her writing, and at the same time, she knew me. She wrote to my doubts and fears. She was brave and true.”
“It’s a strange thing to be so affected by the death of someone you never met in person.”
“I feel like I’ve lost a friend.”
Social media posts quickly filled with comments like these. How could this be true of so many people? How could a person’s writing resonate with others in a way that made them feel like they were friends?
I discovered Rachel’s blog about 10 years ago. As I read her words I would think to myself… that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about. The questions she raised in Evolving in Monkey Town made me nod in agreement because I shared many of those questions. A Year of Biblical Womanhood spoke my language because it was equal parts spiritually stimulating and hysterically funny. Searching for Sunday was her book which I kept refusing to read the final chapter of because I didn’t want the book to end. I devoured Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. This deep dive into the genres and various types of stories in scripture made me grateful for Rachel’s theological expertise and commitment to excellence.
When my questions have seemed like they might be a little too big and a little too scary, Rachel’s writing said, “Me, too.”
When my confusion outweighed my faith, her words reminded, “God’s big enough for this.”
Her advocacy for women has been one of the most important and affirming voices for me in the past few years. The ways in which she perceives God and humanity mirror my own. The thinkers, writers, and speakers of faith she listened to were those who resonated with me, too.
I’m now sitting on my back porch with my stack of Rachel Held Evans books and a tab to her blog open. I guess I need to feel close to her.
Author and speaker Glennon Doyle said in the forward to Rachel’s book Searching for Sunday, “Whenever I want to scare myself I consider what would happen to the world if Rachel Held Evans stopped writing.” Yes. At this moment, I feel afraid. I don’t want to think of a world where Rachel’s writing has stopped.
Rachel’s final blog post was in March on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday. This takes my breath away. She wrote the following words in that post, “It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or you doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called ‘none’ (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) you know this truth deep in your bones: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.’
Death is a part of life.
My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
Through Rachel’s writing I shared her joys, sorrows, celebrations, doubts, frustrations, and successes. She constantly reminded me that the person of Jesus is the one who loves the “outcasts and oddballs” and that there are so many very loud voices right now claiming to speak for Jesus and God who simply are not. Her vulnerability and courage inspire me. I like to think I am brave, but there are places in my life that feel a bit scary and intimidating right now. Stories and issues that demand courage are sitting in front of me. Thank you, Rachel, for reminding me that a life worth living is one of bravery and justice.
“I am a Christian because the story of Jesus is still the story I’m willing being wrong about.” I’m with Rachel.
Amy Boone is a Teaching and Learning Specialist at ACU whose passion for teaching and learning come from her own unquenchable thirst for wisdom, knowledge, and insight.