Given the amount of content available to us in both variety and form, one is often faced with the question how to approach it all. From blogs to podcasts, books and articles, there is only so much time. The solution for myself and many others is that, in the midst of so many voices, you choose a few key ones to stay and connect with. They become points against which other voices less frequented can be judged in order to maintaining a sense of consistency in vision.
Earlier this year in January, I lost one of my voices, the poet Mary Oliver. Any death, I suppose, is surprising, but Mary had lived a full life of 83 years. Yesterday another one of my voices, Rachel Held Evans, was quieted. Much more startling, she was 37.
Myself and many others are shocked, assuming a routine and full recovery would occur when she was admitted to the hospital for the flu a few weeks ago. Even when her husband Dan took over communications for her on her blog and social media accounts, we assumed his tenure in that role was temporary.
She was the kind of author and personality I felt I knew even though we never met. It was the same with Mary Oliver; how our mutual love for how nature communicated, framed, and gave meaning so much of existence. Simply referred to a RHE by her fans, Rachel was entirely approachable. We shared a common story growing up in the evangelical faith of the south in the 1980s and 90s. We shared common struggles with that particular brand of faith, had similar questions about who God is, and what belief should look like. She, however, took her journey and gave it for the world to interact with. This is how I came to know her, through books and podcast interviews.
Perplexed as my feelings are about what seems a very unfair and untimely death, I have hope. Sitting here watching the morning sun slowly light the backyard and reading a book about Christ in all things, I am reminded that Rachel saw Christ in all things. Christ in my dog Alfred who is sleeping against my hip; Christ in the leaves and blooms in our garden out back; Christ in the song of the mocking bird and color of the red-winged blackbird; Christ in my own and Kirsten’s life, and Christ in Rachel’s death.
Christ in all things. All is a big word, expansive and encompassing. It includes everything and so it must include death.
Rachel’s last blog post remarkable ended this way, on the topic of Ash Wednesday:
It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or your doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called “none” (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) you know this truth deep in your bones: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.”
Death is a part of life.
My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.
It is fitting that “you are not alone” is one of the final phrases published by Rachel because it is one of hope, a hope that comes from Christ being in all things.