On Learning of the Death of Rachel Held Evans

I just found out about the death, on 4th May, of one of my favourite Christian writers, Rachel Held Evans. I am currently listening to her read Searching for Sunday and it brings me so much sadness to listen and know that she is no longer in this world. I pray for her husband and children, that they will be comforted, just as Jesus promised in His Sermon on the Mount. So, so sad. Sincere and heartfelt condolences to Rachel’s family and friends. It feels like losing a friend, even though I only knew her through her blog and her books. Much love to all Rachel’s supporters.

 

This Little Light of Mine

…historically the Christian life began with the public acknowledgement of two uncomfortable realities: evil and death. And in baptism the Christian makes the audacious claim that neither one gets the final word. 

When I get to [certain] stories in the New Testament I’m inclined to take the sophisticated approach and assume the people who had demons cast out of them were healed of mental illness or epilepsy or something like that which, when you think about it, simply requires exchanging one highly implausible story for another. But lately I’ve been wondering if this leaves something important out, something true about the shape and nature of evil, which, as Alexander Schmemann puts it, is not merely an absence of good, but the presence of a dark and irrational power.

~ Searching for Sunday, Rachel Held Evans

 

 

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Only in silence the word,
Only in dark the light,
Only in dying life:
Bright the hawk’s flight
On the empty sky.* 

As I said to my daughter, who asked me about suffering a few days ago – the darker the room, the brighter a flame burns. This is not an easy answer. Neither is it an acceptable answer, but it’s the only answer I have and the only answer I can have, in this life. Held Evans continues:

…God is in the business of bringing dead things back to life, so if you want in on God’s business, you better prepare to follow God to all the rock bottom, scorched earth, dead-on-arrival corners of this world, including those in your own heart, because that’s where God works…

Evil and suffering are realities in this world, however much we want them to be no part of it. But God has a plan in all this – and it may not be one that we understand. When we call Him Messiah, Jesus gives each one of us the God Light – the Holy Spirit – that burns and forever burns, even in the dark.

The Light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it [and is unreceptive to it].

John 1:5 (Amplified)

*from A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin

Lent: What is Love?

Rachel Held Evans wrote a thought-provoking post today over on her blog.

‘One of the most destructive mistakes we Christians make is to prioritize shared beliefs over shared relationship, which is deeply ironic considering we worship a God who would rather die than lose relationship with us.’

Rachel Held Evans, post ‘My Parents‘.

This echoes an unrelated post, from Contemplative in the Mud, about the need for relationship to be the primary expression of love (a post so good I printed it off and stuck it on my fridge). Ben writes:

‘Before all projects, before all plans, before all works and actions is being… How could we have forgotten the overriding value of simply who and what we are, in a kind of rest at the centre of our heart, which overflows onto the tiniest of our gestures, lines on our face, attention to details in the lives of others, and so on? How could we have forgotten that, beneath all the action anyone could do to or with others, there exists the substructure of the relationship in itself?’

Contemplative in the Mud, post ‘Before All Else: Being

Indeed, both of these posts reach the heart of Paul’s famous words to the church at Corinth:

If I speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, but have no love, I become no more than blaring brass or crashing cymbal… 

This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance.

Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen…

In this life we have three great lasting qualities—faith, hope and love. But the greatest of them is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1,4-8,13 (Phillips)

Paul goes to great lengths to establish love as the source of everything else, and this is echoed elsewhere in the bible: in the book of Isaiah, in the Psalms, in Jesus’ own words in the Gospels, in the book of James, in Paul’s letters to other churches… and that’s just off the top of my head! The list goes on.

So why do we still insist that being right is more important than being loving? Am I without sin, that I may throw the first stone at the one who is ‘wrong’? Did Jesus emphasise ‘rightness’ first? Or did He, in fact, emphasise relationship first, as Rachel, Ben and the biblical writers suggest?