I stumbled across Rachel Held Evans through a retweet, A year and two weeks ago today. I know that because she died two weeks after I found out she existed. I was in the middle of A Year of Biblical Womanhood (Evans, 2012) and had just taken delivery of the rest of her writings as a batch order – I was ready to learn from this Teacher. But just like that, suddenly, she was ill, then gone, and I felt absolutely bereft. I cried, I mourned, I called myself ridiculous for feeling this way about someone I’d never met and whose existence I had only just learned of. And then I cried some more.
A year on, and the impact of Rachel Held Evans on my life has been monumental. Her alternative interpretation of the Woman at the Well story (John 4:4-42) taught me that when you peel away years of tradition and patriarchal influence the root story may actually be quite different (see Inspired, Evans 2018). Her willingness to delve deep into the origins of traditions to see what can still be learned inspired me to reach back into the Old Testament, discover Midrash and begin to learn from Rabbis alongside Pastors (see A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Evans 2012). The way she can still love and fight for Church with grace after the journey she has walked with it can only come from a deep and trusting relationship with God (see Searching for Sunday, Evans 2015), and I’m still not ready to accept she will never write again.
2 Peter 1:21 states “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men [and women!] spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (NIV). Rachel did not speak out for her own agenda, she responded to need as she saw it. She spoke from a place of questioning, seeking, resting with God to find Their will for her words. You only need do a quick search on Twitter to see the incredible and lasting impact she has had on many around the world. Of course she had many, many critics, yet she responded to them with the same love and care as she did her fans (How I pray for you, Evans 2013).
Rachel, I love your work and it will inspire me and speak to me for the rest of my life. Your example prompted me to start speaking out with a louder voice, and my blog wouldn’t be in existence without you. I thank you and praise God for bringing you into this world. I wish you had more time, but I pray that the seeds that you planted will grow into many strong plants of all types, across all places, with love at their hearts.
I end with my favourite piece of theological writing ever, with regards to John 8:3-11:
“Jesus once said that his mission was not to abolish the law, but to fulfil it. And in this instance, fulfilling the law meant letting it go. It may serve as little comfort to those who have suffered abuse at the hands of Bible-wielding literalists, but the disturbing laws of Leviticus and Deutoronomy lose just a bit of their potency when God himself breaks them.”
Evans, 2012, p.54
Peace be with you.
Evans, R.H. (2010) Faith Unravelled. Michigan: Zondervan
Evans, R.H. (2012) A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Nashville: Thomas Nelson
Evans, R.H. (2013) ‘How I pray for you’ Rachel Held Evans. June 2013. Available at https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/how-i-pray-for-you? (Accessed 4th May 2020).
Evans, R.H. (2015) Searching for Sunday: Loving, leaving and finding the church. Nashville: Thomas Nelson
Evans, R.H. (2018) Inspired: Slaying Giants, walking on water, and loving the Bible again. Nashville: Thomas Nelson