The title of this post came to me weeks before I knew what the content would be. I thought I’d be writing about Notre Dame and the collective response to it, but I was wrong. While we were all glued to the news and watching the fire, a woman I’d never met was fighting for her life. I say I’d never met her, but I feel like I did. Her writing and social media engagement made many of us feel as though we knew her. For weeks, I checked twitter several times a day for her health updates, praying for good news. She had to recover. We needed her to keep writing, to keep questioning, to keep inspiring us toward openness.
…and then suddenly she was gone.
I was helping with a youth retreat and didn’t look at my phone until late at night. When I saw the news of her death, I found myself sitting in a bunk crying and grieving for someone I’d never spoken to.
The community Rachel Held Evans fostered online and through her writing was one of my cathedrals. It was a safe space where I felt welcome to work through my questions, doubts, and misunderstandings. It was a place where I found other people who felt the same way. Once she passed, it became evident how many thousands of people are at a loss now. It was all so sudden…and so many strangers are part of this bereft family.
Rachel went public with her questions and her journey to find a faith that addressed the very real problems in this world. She articulated things I couldn’t put into words, but had felt for years. She did not shy away from expressing her views even when she knew the critics would vehemently attack. She was not afraid to be wrong. And she was not afraid to apologize. She fought tirelessly to encourage people to keep their faith…because God was bigger than any human construct or behavior. She gave the outcasts a place to feel loved and welcome. She used her success to lift up and draw attention to other voices who needed to be heard.
When our cathedrals burn, we don’t abandon the cause. We rebuild.
I’ve written and deleted so many posts over the years because I didn’t want to be misunderstood. No more. I’m ok being misunderstood by hundreds of people if it means one person feels known. I will be vulnerable with my thoughts and writing…and if it means I have to apologize for getting things wrong along the way, so be it. Rachel may be gone, but she influenced thousands of us who need to carry on the cause.
I’ve dreamed of being a writer for my entire life. The fact is: I am a writer. I don’t get paid for it, but I have a voice. I will use my voice to draw attention to issues that matter, to encourage people to think about new perspectives…and to build cathedrals where all are welcome.