Grieving a Saint


Saturday I was greeted with the terrible news that Rachele Held Evans had passed away. I didn’t know Rachele, I’ve never even read one of her books 1, but I appreciated her via her blog and on twitter. There were a number of occasions where I may have disagreed with something she wrote, but I always found her insights worth pondering.

From my vantage point of her career I’ve seen her wrestle with her faith, embrace the joys and trials of motherhood, and deal with some of the ugliest orcs twitter has produced. If you’re familiar with internet parlance you might have expected me to use “troll” there, but I’m now thinking “orc” better describes the folks who have launched twitter missiles at Rachele over the years. The middle-earth theory is that, as Morgoth could not produce life, orcs were created by corrupting elves – a race which embodied much of what was good in the world. With that in mind, “orc” seems to best describe Christians who have taken something beautiful like faith and used it to be ugly in world 2. And, even today, the orcs were out – though in numbers which were mercifully small.

Rachel had gone into the hospital just before Easter with the Flu and a UTI, not long after that her husband informed folks that she’d experienced an allergic reaction to the anti-biotics which were used to fight the infection and had been placed in an induced coma to combat some resulting seizures. I was alarmed by this news, and felt especially stuck for Rachele’s husband and two children 3. Doctor’s tried to bring Rachel out of the coma, but the seizures returned and she suffered from swelling in the brain that they just couldn’t treat. I know a great many people are heartbroken by the loss of someone whose writings helped them explore their faith anew, but this evening all I can think about are her husband and her kids. This is not right. This is not the way things are supposed to be. This is why part of the Christian faith is the cry of hope, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

Come make all things new because we’re tired of shattered families and grieving children and hatred and violence and corruption and the power of empire. Come quickly.

Rachele’s final blog entry, written for this past Ash Wednesday, contains perhaps the best advice any pastor could give for a people struggling with grief. I’m one who loves irony, it’s really what keeps me sane, but this hits so on point it just makes me ache with sorrow.

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 your 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.

Rest in peace, Rachele. We’ll take the orcs’ arrows from here on out.

  1. I stopped reading Christian literature sometime around 2009. I either found the topics boring, or were chewing on cud I’d already passed to another stomach. I opted instead to do my theological reflecting by reading history and biographies. And that’s OK, I wasn’t really Rachele’s target audience. 
  2. Yes, I’m a nerd. And, yes, this could be applied to any otherwise noble belief. 
  3. One of whom is barely one. There is a child in this world, who is Bump’s age, who will never see their mom again. Considering how many more children there are in this world who are in the same situation is almost bringing me to tears as I write this. 

One Comment

  1. Anna says:

    I love every single one of her books. She opened my eyes years ago to so many things, and this is a huge loss. I was planning on thanking her at a conference in October, but now I’ll just wait until we meet on the other side. Heartbroken.

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