When We Lose Another Author – Goodbye, Rachel Held Evans

“My story is about moving from certainty, through doubt, to faith. It’s not about the answers I found but about the questions I asked, questions I suspect you might be asking too. It’s not a pretty story, or even a finished story. It’s a survival story.”
– Rachel Held Evans

The Loss of RHE

I look at my keyboard. I see it’s happening again.

The letters are going away.

It’s a pattern I’ve noticed. On my old computer keyboards, I typed away the letters A, S, and N. The letters rubbed off the keys from overuse.

And now, the A, S, and N are starting to blur on my current keyboard, too.

(Factoid: The three most used keys are supposedly the space bar, the letter E, and the backspace.)

Mac Keyboard Letters

Last Saturday morning, we all lost RHE.

Maybe you saw the trending hashtag #BecauseofRHE and read story after story about her.

Here’s why.

RIP, Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans—a Christian author, blogger, speaker, mother, wife—died at 37 years old on May 4, 2019. (The doctors initially suspected complications from an allergic reaction to antibiotics for an infection. But symptoms also suggest encephalitis.)

The world mourns. I mourn.

Even though I never met Rachel in person, I knew her through her words. I read her books. Her blog. Her tweets. I listened to her on podcasts and interviews.

Her letters were used over and over.

Ask the Questions Rachel Held Evans_LisaNotes

We readers hate to lose another stellar spiritual writer, another inspiring faith friend.

I felt this same way after the death of Tim Hansel, December 13, 2009; Dallas Willard, May 8, 2013; Jerry Bridges, March 6, 2016; Eugene Peterson, October 22, 2018.

And now Rachel Held Evans, May 4, 2019. We’ll hear no more evolutionary new words from her. We won’t see what she would have done next.

We won’t have her clearing a path in front for us to follow.

Ask the Questions

Rachel led the way through her questions. She grew up in a conservative Christian tradition that sometimes skirted the hard questions or buried them in platitudes.

When Rachel began searching for answers on her own, she discovered a bigger God than she’d been taught to believe. God still didn’t provide all the answers she wanted. But he taught her to make peace with the questions.

Rachel was studious, insightful, and deeply in love with Jesus. Instead of losing her faith through the doubts, she grew her faith through them. Instead of loving God less, she loved him more.

And through her, we did, too.

“But the truth is, I’ve found people to be much more receptive to the gospel when they know becoming a Christian doesn’t require becoming a know-it-all. Most of the people I’ve encountered are looking not for a religion to answer all their questions but for a community of faith in which they can feel safe asking them.

But because of her questions, Rachel was often hit from inside church walls. Her views weren’t welcomed among all. She took the shots.

“With Scripture, we’ve not been invited to an academic fraternity; we’ve been invited to a wrestling match. We’ve been invited to a dynamic, centuries-long conversation with God and God’s people that has been unfolding since creation, one story at a time. If we’re lucky, it will leave us with a limp.”

Like many of us, Rachel walked with a limp.

And Now?

Eventually every writer will use up the words they’ve been given to say in this life, either by disinterest, or disease, or death.

But the troubling thing about losing our artists is we lose another lens to see God. When writers scribble down their picture of God, we see a new side of God, too. I learned to broaden my perspective of God through word pictures from Rachel. And Tim, Dallas, Jerry, Eugene, and many, many others.

Where do we go from here, with more letters scrubbed off our keyboard? What will we do without RHE?

1. We keep reading her written words.

I’ll keep returning to Rachel’s books (see the list below), just like I do other authors (all the way back to Moses) who no longer write fresh words. With Rachel’s words, we continue to nurture our love for Jesus through church, through the Bible, through Holy Spirit.

And we nurture our love for God’s grace.

“Perhaps we’re afraid that if we get out of the way, this grace thing might get out of hand. Well, guess what? It already has.

“Grace got out of hand the moment the God of the universe hung on a Roman cross and with outstretched hands looked out upon those who had hung him there and declared ‘Father, forgive them for they know now what they do.’

Grace has been out of hand for more than two thousand years now. We best get used to it.

Rachel was a champion for grace.

2. We turn the old words into new experiences.

Christian authors don’t publish books simply for their own growth; they want us to live them out in our own ways. They inspire us to create fresh and original experiences with God ourselves.

So perhaps a better question than, ‘Do I believe in miracles?’ is, ‘Am I acting like I do?’ Am I including the people who are typically excluded? Am I feeding the hungry and caring for the sick? Am I holding the hands of the homeless and offering help to addicts?”

Rachel encouraged us all to live the gospel, not just preach (or worse, argue) about it.

3. We seek God’s voice among new voices.

Fortunately, we live in an age where new voices are speaking up all around us. Through the guidance of Holy Spirit, we continue listening, weighing, learning from those still on the journey here, integrating them with voices from the past. Keep adding new authors to your reading list.

Indeed it’s easier to remember things together than alone.”

A Resilient Faith

Ironically, since Rachel was known for her questions, she leaves us with a new question: Why did Rachel die young?

We ask God for an explanation; we don’t get adequate answers.

But even in this, as Rachel once said, the Christian faith won’t fall apart.

“Faith is more resilient than that. Like a living organism, it has a remarkable ability to adapt to change. At our best, Christians embrace this quality, leaving enough space for God to surprise us every now and then.”

Even if you’ve never read a book or article by Rachel Held Evans, you’ve likely still been influenced by her through someone else who did read her works. That’s the way community works. None of us are Christians on our own.

Rachel said,

“Like it or not, following Jesus is a group activity, something we’re supposed to do together.

“We might not always do it within the walls of church or even in an organized religion, but if we are to go about making disciples, confessing our sins, breaking bread, paying attention, and preaching the Word, we’re going to need one another. We’re going to need each other’s help.”

Rachel, you were one of our helps.

We’ll mourn your loss, our RHE. But we’ll continue to hear your voice.

“It’s about all the strange ways God brings dead things back to life again. It’s about giving up and starting over again.”

* * *

Do you have a favorite book by Rachel? What author do you wish you heard more from? Do you have a favorite new author?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Rachel’s Books:

  • Faith Unraveled
    How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask Questions
    2010/2014
    (previous published as Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions)
    Kindle version on sale $2.99
  • A Year of Biblical Womanhood
    How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master
    2012
  • Searching for Sunday
    Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
    2015
    Kindle version on sale $0.99
  • Inspired
    Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again
    2018

 

31 thoughts on “When We Lose Another Author – Goodbye, Rachel Held Evans

  1. blankLaurie

    So sad to lose this talented writer at such a young age. I will miss RHE’s wisdom from her blog but luckily can continue to read her books. Thank you for this touching tribute.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I will miss Rachel’s wisdom, too. It’s still hard to believe that she has passed. I’m happy for her, of course, but sad for the rest of us.

  2. blankLinda Stoll

    Rachel’s death hit me hard, kept me awake in the night, left me sad in the morning. Maybe because my own daughters are older than her. I didn’t know her well at all, but Beth Moore’s tweet said it powerfully –

    ‘Thinking what it was about @rachelheldevans that could cause many on other sides of issues to take their hats off to her in her death. People are run rife with grief for her babies, yes. But also I think part of it is that, in an era of gross hypocrisy, she was alarmingly honest.’

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/may/reflecting-on-rhe.html

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Yes, Rachel’s honesty was worthy of respect. And her kindness with it. Even when others disagreed with her, she still was gracious. I appreciate you sharing the link, Linda. I just read the article; Ed Stetzer did an upstanding job on it.

  3. blankPam Ecrement

    What a beautiful heartfelt tribute to Rachel. I did not know her, but your words here cause me to want to read all she wrote and discover the gift God left us through her words that will live on beyond her physical life. Thank you.

    I especially like the metaphor about letters on a keyboard. I have had that happen with a number of my computer keyboards and am incessantly teased about it by our son and a few others.

    Thank you, my friend❤️

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Pam. Rachel was very authentic in her writings. Combined with her love for Jesus and her intellect, her writings always stirred me.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who rubs letters off their keyboard. ha. I get teased about it as well. 🙂

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      You capture it exactly, Michele: the exit sign is lit and the door is swinging. I’ve not said it that poetically, but I’ve definitely echoed the sentiment again and again this past 6 months. Maybe it’s just because my peer group is getting older, but it seems like I’ve heard of so many deaths lately. 🙁

  4. blankMartha J Orlando

    I’m ashamed to say this, Lisa, but I haven’t read anything by Rachel Held Evans. That’s about to change! Yes, it is so sad, and there are no answers, as to why God called her home at such a young age, but her words of inspiration will be her legacy for all of those she left behind.
    Blessings, my friend!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your words, Martha.

      Yes, it is wonderful to live in an age when we can so easily capture words and read them later, whenever we want. I’m grateful for all the stories captured in the Bible, but I always wish there were even more!

  5. blankRebecca Hastings

    I am always a fan of asking questions, especially directed to God. Some people think questioning God is a sign that we don’t believe, but I see it as a sign that I am in relationship with God. I even think He likes it.

    Praying for comfort for those closest to Rachel.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you, Rebecca. I think God understands our need to ask questions and welcomes them all. I’m grateful that my dad taught us as young children to not be afraid to ask questions of God. (But I did fear asking my dad certain questions! But that’s another story. ha.)

  6. blankYvonne Chase

    I didn’t find out about Rachel until her death. I tackle the topic of death in my latest post where she is mentioned. Hope you swing by to read it.

    As I now learn about her, I see we have a few things in common; we ask the hard questions, take the shots and crave truth/honesty. I’ll continue on this path in her absence as God leads me.

    “Death is a part of life.” RHE

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Just read your post, Yvonne. Good stuff there. I appreciate your encouragement to take better care of our bodies. Even though we know we’ll all die eventually, we should live as healthy as possible while we’re here. I’m not always a great example of that with my food choices. 🙁

      Yes, I’d agree you and Rachel are both known for asking the hard questions that provoke us to think more. Keep it up!

  7. blankMary Geisen

    This is such a beautiful tribute to Rachel. I knew very little about her but feel I have a much better understanding now through your words. I love the idea that I have most certainly been touched by Rachel words through someone else. The words about community really spoke to me. “Following Jesus is a group activity.” YES!

    I’m praying I always remain open to all voices knowing that God created us with the purpose of sharing and honoring Him.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Rachel’s line about community really stood out to me, too, Mary. Too often we think of ourselves as Lone Ranger Christians, but none of us are meant to do this thing alone. We need each other! Thanks for all you do to foster community.

  8. blankKaren Del Tatto

    Although I am not familiar with Rachel’s writings, I appreciated so much your sharing about her life and work. It certainly is hard to understand why someone who is doing so much for the Kingdom of God would die so young, but God… We know that He is has the big and perfect picture.

    I appreciated your poignant insights into those who have gone on to Glory and the legacy in words they have left behind.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Karen. Yes, when a person dies young, it’s hard to understand what’s going on. But no matter what age a person dies, it’s still hard to let them go. Heaven is filling up with people I love and that I want to see again. I thank God for that hope that we will be reunited one day.

  9. blankfloyd

    It’s hard to grasp and see the overall good that God will use from Rachel’s life. But we know that is what will and is happening. I mourn for her loved ones… and for all of us really. You’re right. We all get a turn. May our words and actions speak like the sister we lost and whose words will continue to touch hearts and minds.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      “We all get a turn.” We don’t always like to think about that. But it’s true. And when we do face it, it can help us appreciate our time here more thoughtfully. Thanks, Floyd.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Tiffany. Sometimes the losses feel so close together. I recently lost a dear friend that I grew up, the spouse of one of my best friends. We’ll be stinging from his loss for a long time to come. Now the loss of Rachel and others just pile on. Grateful for a heavenly reunion one day.

  10. blankSusan Shipe

    Lisa, I know very little about RHE but this article is so beautifully written and gives me a clearer picture of who and what she lived. Thank you. Best post I’ve read regarding Rachel.

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Susan. I went back and read through lots of the notes I took from Rachel’s books. I learned a lot from her through the years, and will continue to as I reread her books over time.

  11. blankTrudy

    That’s so sad, especially for her family and friends. Her readers, too. I’m glad her legacy will go on. I confess I didn’t even know who she was, but she certainly sounds like a champion of grace and of speaking the truth in love. It’s so true that we need faith communities where it is safe to ask questions. Love and blessings to you, Lisa!

    1. blankLisaNotes Post author

      Rachel was definitely a champion for grace. I think you’d like her writings, Trudy. She was very down-to-earth, but very intelligent too. She will definitely be missed. I especially hate it for her husband and babies. 🙁

  12. blankJerralea

    Lisa, this is a great post about RHE. You’ve unpacked some quotes I’ve not read before.

    I also appreciate you quoting her “following Jesus is a group activity.” Yes! We are not meant to go it alone. Thank you for being a part of the community of writers that I frequent. I always learn something and come away challenged.

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