Thursday, May 9, 2019

Because of RHE

Saturday, May 4th, one of my favorite authors, Rachel Held Evans, passed away. She was 37, a mother of young children, and one of the reasons (maybe biggest) I have not entirely wandered away from the church. Now, don't hear me wrong. I wasn't off gallivanting and losing my moral compass. And I know the Lord works all things for His good and she was a propellant in a bigger story.

But what I read in a post on Christianity Today about her passing and her influence really sums it up best. She was a safe place for those who wander and wonder. If my life can be wrapped up in two words I think wandering and wondering might be those two.

So let me back up a little...

I first stumbled upon RHE's writings in 2012 when she released A Year of Biblical Womanhood. My mom and I pre-ordered the book and read it together in our own little book club. I loved it! (Mom wasn't quite as enthusiastic.)

After that, I'm sure I read some of her blogs here and there but ran back into her last year when looking for books about people who were raised in faith, lost it, and found it again. That's when I came across Searching for Sunday.

Now another needed back up...

In 2017 I started experiencing some serious doubt and disconnect about church, the Bible, and what I just accepted because it was how I was raised. This all started when a friend from work (who is also a wandering wonderer) and I were discussing some theological topic (maybe women in leadership...I don't fully remember) and he asked, "why do you believe that?" to which I responded, "hm...I guess I just always have. I don't know." This led me down a path of why do I believe anything? A mild existential crisis if you will. (mild may be putting it lightly)

After a little while of wrestling with this alone, I turned to some of my oldest and most faithful friends for direction. These friends, of course, were books. I love a memoir about someone else's story. How they got where they are. What they believe. (check out This I Believe on NPR if you do to) Learning how other people understand and experience the world helps me know how I understand and can experience the world.

I read English Lessons by Andrea Lucado, the Most Beautiful Thing I've Seen by Lisa Gungor, Finding God in the Waves by Science Mike, and a few others. But the one that really pressed into me and helped me feel secure though still doubting was Searching for Sunday by RHE.

In just the prologue, Dawn, her honesty and well written thoughts were enough to keep me going. (you can read the prologue in the Look Inside feature on Amazon) She talked about how early traditions in Christianity "bury their dead with their feet toward the rising sun as a sign of hope and with the expectation that when Jesus returns to Jerusalem at the Second Coming, the faithful will rise and look him in the eye." She ends the prologue with this:

"This book is entitled Searching for Sunday, but it's less about searching for Sunday church and more about searching for Sunday resurrection. It's about all the strange ways God brings dead things back to life again. It's about why, even on days when I suspect all this talk of Jesus is a bunch of bunk designed to coddle us through an essentially meaningless existence, I should still like to be buried with my feet facing the rising sun. 

Just in case."

The first time I was in a season of doubt back in 2007, my rescuer was CS Lewis and the character of Puddleglum. Puddleglum made sure to let the underworld folks know that even if there wasn't another option he'd still believe there was. Even if there was no Aslan, he'd live like there was anyway. And that is where my faith draws from on the days when I can't see it and the days when my mind and faith are wandering and wondering.

Maybe this seems unstable to some. Maybe having such a high regard for an author and speaker that has some very different theological views than you might seem unwise. But if I've learned anything in the past 2 years I think it might be that I don't know what I don't know. The world is big. The bible is rich in theology and culture and things we will never understand being from the western world. Everyone has a story worth telling. And the people who tell their stories openly and honestly might just help someone else to live their story more fully.

So because of RHE, I am in a place of belief out of doubt. Openness to tell my story. Sadness that we will not have more of her writing to read. But gladness that I can turn to what she has written on days when I feel this might all be a bunch of bunk.

Thank you, RHE, for writing honestly for all of us who wander and wonder and need to know we are not alone.

*For the record, I have found a church to sink into in order to work through my wanderings and wondering. When it comes down to it, the thing I want to hang my hat on at the end of the day is Jesus, nothing more, nothing less. Some days I work through this well. Most days I go through the motions. But seasons come and go and I am glad to have experienced this season of doubt and searching. As I said to a dear friend (an actual person, not a book) "I just don't know that I can ever get back to where I was." And her response was "maybe you are on your way to something better." So here's to continuing the search in an honest way with hopeful expectation that some day we will see that ever longed for rising sun.


  1. Hannah, you are brave to share your heart. I love you and continue to pray with you as you dig in and continue to learn. Jesus is my reason too!

  2. Hannah, I believe in your good heart. I'm sorry you've lost a writer whose work really spoke to you, but I know you will find another. There is immortality in books, so these works will live on.