Years ago, I discovered Rachel Held Evans, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her blogging and her books. When I learned a few weeks ago that she had suddenly experienced seizures during what seemed like a treatable illness, I started checking up on her every day (her husband would post updates from the hospital). I checked this morning, saw that an update hadn’t been posted in four days, and thought, “This isn’t good.” This evening I returned from an afternoon of errands and helping at a youth group event, to the news that she had died early this morning of damage done by sudden brain swelling a couple of days ago. My heart aches – she was just 37 and left behind a husband, a toddler, and a baby.
The first book I read by her was called Evolving in Monkey Town. She has since changed the name, but the original title drew me in with its humour. Though she was fourteen years younger than I am, her story brought back memories of a church culture I was immersed in during my teens in the 80s. I gradually left that particular church in the late 80s/early 90s, but apparently the general culture it was birthed from grew more intense during the 90s, because I see people in her age bracket posting all the time these days about their experiences in restrictive and patriarchal evangelical churches.
The next book of hers that I read was A Year of Biblical Womanhood. She spent an entire YEAR literally living out various directives from the Bible, including spending time on her roof and sleeping some nights in a tent on her front lawn, much to the amusement of her neighbours. I really admired her pluck for all she did, and her insight from the experiences. Plus, the book is just extremely funny!
I also appreciated her voice in Searching For Sunday. And I haven’t read her latest book yet, though I know it’s in my local library.
Because of Rachel Held Evans, I started to recognize injustices coming from patriarchy in a (long-term, family-to-us) church (that we ultimately left in late 2013 – the upheaval I mentioned in my previous post). Then, as a friend said to me at that time, “it got personal.” In earlier years, I would have been terrified to speak up about what happened to us – but thanks to Rachel, I found a tidbit of courage to do so.
And then, I got “farewelled” (a term and quote from Rachel’s blog post in April 2014):
“So rather than wearing out my voice in calling for an end to evangelicalism’s culture wars, I think it’s time to focus on finding and creating church among its many refugees—women called to ministry, our LGBTQ brother and sisters, science-lovers, doubters, dreamers, misfits, abuse survivors, those who refuse to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith or their compassion and their religion, those who have, for whatever reason, been ‘farewelled.'” – Rachel Held Evans
Yeah, that was fun. Not. Patriarchy and its support systems do not like it when women speak up.
Rachel’s writings helped me start to sort through this fog. As I read through thousands of tributes being paid to her today, I can’t believe that she’s gone now. It was just so sudden. But reading them also made me all the more want to put thoughts “out there” – share some stories, process my thoughts. It’s scary for me, but I’m going to try. And I’ll still post about my creative projects, because it’s all part of the same me.
Thank you, Rachel, for how you lived your life. I hope you are happy where you are, and I’m sorry you were taken from your family so early. You must miss them. I’m sure they miss you. May God’s peace be with you and them.