Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of Rachel Held Evans. She was a Christian columnist, blogger and author. She wrote two New York Times bestsellers, Searching for Sunday and A Year of Biblical Womanhood. She was 37 years old when she died from a reaction to medication for an infection.
I only recently discovered her writing. I am about halfway through her book, Searching For Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church. I don’t agree with everything she writes, but agreement isn’t the point. As she says in her book, “I am writing because sometimes we are closer to the truth in our vulnerability than in our safe certainties.”
Rachel Evans possessed the ability to use her life’s struggles with Christianity to challenge the American church to get past black and white thinking, the tiresome culture wars, and the Christian tendency to shut out others, rather than invite them in. Even though I just started reading her book a week ago, I identify with her writing. I’ve lost a lot of my earlier fervor for the church in recent years. Like Rachel, I have sat out Sunday at home for a season, rather than attend church. And like Rachel, I am back in although with reservations.
I never lost my faith in God, but I have had my doubts about his church. However, I have found that I need the church with all of its blemishes and faults. To quote Rachel from Searching For Sunday, “They (church friends) reminded me that Christianity isn’t meant to simply be believed; it’s meant to be lived, shared, eaten, spoken, and enacted in the presence of other people. They reminded me that, try as I may, I can’t be a Christian on my own. I need a community. I need the church.”
What I like about her writing is how she continually points out Jesus’ tendency in the Gospels to break tradition, to invite the marginalized and challenge the religious mindset of his generation. Christianity isn’t supposed to be a place where we fortify our mindsets against the world, secure a battlement against society, and keep out the impure. So many times, that’s what has happened as we have devolved into a self-righteous camp of naysayers.
This is my favorite quote thus far by Rachel Evans, “This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.”
On this day, the anniversary of her death, I hope I can honor her life with remembering I am an oddball at the table, hungry for something more, and leaving room for one more.