I’ve spent the better part of this weekend on twitter reading tributes to author, speaker, prophet Rachel Held Evans, who died yesterday morning. I’m a new-ish follower of hers, but the space that she provided to question and wonder aloud about faith has been like a breath of fresh air for me. She wasn’t afraid to state an opinion, apologize when wrong, assert herself when right, and offer words of encouragement to those who needed them. Watching her and learning from her was in itself an inspirational example of a living faith, but reading the #prayforRHE and #becauseofRHE threads on twitter is enough to light your heart on fire.
What’s incredible is the vast array of supporters, students, followers, friends, and cheerleaders she leaves behind, and the depth of impact she had on them all. Do they all agree with her on everything? No. Do they all support the same vision? Not necessarily. But the respect she gained from leaders across the world is a testimony to what can happen when honesty, empathy, humor, challenge, and invitation are employed with holiness and redemption at the center of it all.
As I walked from the car to my apartment tonight, all calm and quiet around me, wading through the softness and stillness of a spring night, I thought about what a bright light RHE was in this world. And I kept thinking about how darkness feels so much a part of grief. A light goes out, and we’re stuck in the absence of it. We’re stuck, until we look at her life, and decide that the only way to move forward is to take a portion of that light, each of us, add it to our own, and shine all the brighter in her honor and in honor of all the saints who have gone before us. When the light of a saint goes out, the world doesn’t have to become darker. We just have to strive alongside the Spirit to make our own lights shine a little brighter, or find others to light up alongside us. That’s Rachel’s legacy to me. She was a woman who wasn’t satisfied with her own light. She wanted everyone around her to harness their own to bring to this dark, dreary world the dawn of Easter morning every day of the year.