When I found myself sojourning away from Evangelical Christianity a few years ago, in search of a way of relating to God that was not heavy laden with constant guilt, shame and fear, it felt very lonely. My husband had his own sojourning that has ended quite differently than mine, but he expressed that the one thing that scared him the most was losing community and the friends he had at church. He had read so many accounts of people losing their faith and automatically losing their community because of it. I vehemently argued that this wouldn’t happen. Not with the Christians we knew and had come to love. I remember him shrugging and saying that he was preparing for it, so that when it happened he wouldn’t be upset. And when it happened, I was the one that wasn’t prepared. I was also not prepared when I lost cherished friendships because my beliefs had merely changed into a different flavor of Christianity. It felt isolating, and it made me question the path God was leading me down, because I felt so alone in it. And yet, I knew it was the way He was leading me, so there was no turning back.
But, God had not led me down that path to be alone with Him. He opened my eyes to the great community of believers, sojourners, wilderness children thought to be lost, but found in the great love of Christ our savior. The church I have settled into holds lots of space for everyone, and so I found a place where I could ask questions and be who I am without worrying about losing friendships or being judged. I have found my people for this part of my journey.
I also found an online community of the wounded, the doubters, the joyful, the sorrowful, the wanderers, the mystics, the hopeful, but most importantly the beloved ones of God who are fervently seeking Love in yet undefined spaces. Rachel Held Evans was one of the prophetic voices curating this space for us, binding wounds, opening doors and making room at the table for anyone starving for the living bread and water of life. And she died this weekend. She was my age, with two very small children, and my heart is just broken. So many people all over the world were praying for her healing from sickness, not expecting this sickness would actually lead to her untimely death.
And the community is mourning at large, together. I have seen so many tributes to Rachel, testifying to how she walked with us on our journey and/or led us wilderness children back to the water we so longed for and needed. At first, I felt very alone in my grief. I only knew her through her words, and through hearing her speak at the Evolving Faith conference that was held last October. Why was I taking this so personally, when she has close friends and family that definitely have the right to be devastated? But as everyone has been mourning, and sharing their very vulnerable thoughts and fears and doubts, I started hearing the same things I was feeling. And there was encouragement that we are allowed to feel how we feel. No shame. There have been no cheap platitudes or coffee mug verses being thrown around; just a deep sitting with the heaviness we all feel. An acknowledgement that life isn’t fair and that there is so much we just don’t understand. And I started drawing comfort from the togetherness we have in this great sorrow, even though we are all over the world. Somehow, it feels like we have been drawn closer together in this, and it feels like a great force of love is growing out of the void of Rachel’s death. Because we are being real and honest with each other. There is no posturing, no hollow words of comfort. Just togetherness in sorrow. And that is Church. That is the Body of Christ. There lies hope. Because, just as Rachel was in her own way being Christ to us, we are being Christ to each other, and His love courses through us, wanting to be poured out, with more than enough to go around.
So let us follow Rachel’s example of being Christ to everyone, even those who cursed her or disagreed with her, and let us continue to draw closer to each other as the body of Christ – differences and all.