This month we lost a sister.

We lost a warrior-poet.

We lost an Eshet Chayil (woman of valor).

 

Rachel Held Evans, beloved and hated author of four Christian non-fiction books passed away after terrible complications that started with the flu.

 

It was tragic.

 

It still is.

 

 

She was 37 years old with a loving and supportive husband and two children, one 3 years old and the other, only 11 months.

Rachel is a controversial voice in Christian circles, but to those that followed her writing and speaking, she was nothing short of Jesus in authentic, sincere, broken flesh. Since her passing, thousands have flocked to social media to share how her words and spirit have impacted their lives through hashtags like #becauseofRHE.

What I find most interesting and inspiring is that the majority of the posts and comments I have read each in their own way say something to the tune of,

 

“I would not still be a Christian if not for her.”

 

or

 

“She helped me find Jesus again when I thought I’d lost Him.”

 

 

In many ways, I feel similarly.

 

 

I have not read everything Rachel wrote. In fact, I haven’t fully completed any of her books. I have, however, loved listening to several podcasts that hosted her as a guest, and I will never forget her talk at Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Conference in Nashville back in 2012.

 

After just a few minutes of her speaking, two things were made very clear to me about her character and integrity:

 

1.     She was undyingly devoted to her love and intimate relationship with Jesus, no matter what form it took from season to season.
2.     In all her efforts to love people like Jesus loved her, she simply refused to give up on anyone

 

I connected with Rachel’s spirit immediately.

 

 

Of course, it helped immensely when I discovered that her first book, Searching for Sunday was in SO MANY WAYS similar to my first book, Giving Up Sunday.

It seemed the same message was burning within two people who never knew each other, but had clearly both been adopted by the same God, and had encountered the same Holy Spirit.

 

Rachel was not perfect.

In fact, I often opted out of her writings because she seemed more politically inspired than I have ever cared to be.

 

But what really sets her apart from some of her contemporaries and theological “opponents” is this:

 

She created space for everyone.

 

 

If you were covered in rags and smelling like sin,

 

she made a place for you at the table.

 

 

If you were slipping in your faith and questioning the goodness of God,

she made a place for you at the table.

 

 

If you were a different color, gender, race, age, or sexual orientation,

 

she made a place for you at the table.

 

 

And if you were an oppressor of others, even if you were an enemy to all she believed in,

 

she made a place for you at the table.

 

 

There was simply nothing that disqualified you from communion with God, and perhaps more radically, from communion with her. Regardless of everything, she saw people as just that…

 

Human…

 

The most prized and beloved possession of God.

 

 

So in light of her death, what can we take from her life?

 

What is God longing to bless us with from the gifts and words he has given her, our sister?

 

 

I believe one of them is this:

 

Be human.

 

In the midst of whatever season you find yourself, be fully there.

In times of pain and grief, do not bypass, ignore, avoid, or “overcome” it. Embrace it as a part of you and a part of the truth of God.

In times of boring routine or merely existing to the next day, show up with discipline, patience, and determination to see the journey through one small step at a time.

And in times of great joy and celebration, remember that the best parties have the most unexpected guests.

 

Which leads me to the other thing Rachel has helped me remember:

 

See the human.

 

If you want to live and love like Jesus, if you want to honor and serve His and your Father,

 

then love each and every person in front of you as if they are the only person God has asked you to love.

 

Set aside what they’ve done or are still doing.

Let go your preoccupation with your opinion of them and their lifestyle.

Whether they are believers or not, sinners or saints, male or female, gay or straight, rich or poor, right or wrong…

 

Die to your opinion or agendas.

 

See and serve the human.

 

God will take care of the rest, His way.

 

Make room at the table.

 

 

 

Rachel,

 

Thanks for helping me feel like I belong in this world.
Thank you for being a voice from God saying, “you are not alone.”
I promise to carry on the work to love, to serve, and to create space for anyone I find at the table that Abba has given us.
I look forward to when we get to meet,

 

Your brother,
Kurtis

 

 

For more on Rachel’s life, legacy, and gift to the Church, check out RELEVANT Magazine’s article