I’ll Miss Your Voice, Pastor: A Tribute to RHE

The text came through at 11:55 on Saturday morning. I was driving to a family wedding and had a few more hours in the car with my 13 year-old. At 80 MPH, all I could do was read the words and sit in shock. RHE died. My dear friend in all things Jesus and hard sent this short message via text because how else do you express what you can’t fathom?

As my jaw dropped, my response was Nooooooo. And again Noooooooo.

I know that texting and driving is not approved adulting, but I had to respond from my gut. The tears started flowing. They were quiet, painful, burning tears. They were the raw and gut wrenching pain of losing a hero. As my daughter read the news reports for me, I tried to let it sink in. How can a 37 year-old mom of two babies get the flu and a UTI and die? How can this be? How can this voice that I need and love be gone?hPoJ1S0NSZylc6VIOTJUtw

My daughter is an athlete. As she tried to wrap her mind around this unusually tender expression of emotion from her otherwise stoic mother, I tried to compare the loss in a way that she could comprehend. I explained the weight of example and leadership that Rachel Held Evans was in my life in metaphors of sports. When I made the comparison to one of her deeply beloved models and mentors, she quietly said, “I’m so sorry, Momma.” She let me sit in the pain. For the next two hours, the tears continued to fall and I drove. There was no need to eat or even slow down. I just needed to drive and cry.

Music saves me. There are countless playlists on my iTunes account that have the names of my emotional states and needs. After about 20 minutes of complete silence, I pulled up the only playlist that could touch this. The title is BACKBONE. On the days when I don’t have one, these are the songs that I need to carry on. Many of these songs have a mix of tension, as some have connection to faith. In the moments that I need this playlist the most, I am so angry at God that I don’t have much faith. And yet, I had to play these songs because people like Rachel have modeled before me that God can handle all of my yelling and screaming and cussing and sadness. I said all of these things as a cried.

For those who have not yet experienced Rachel’s work, let me tell you a little about what she did for me. While I adore the work that Rachel did in forging the path for women in post-Evangelical reconstruction, that was not the the loudest call she brought in my life. I had served as a woman in ministry for years prior to “meeting” Rachel. In my journey, she was the gift of the feminine rabble-rouser of faith. Her blog was a breath of fresh air. Her first book was wonderful. But her second book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” was freaking gold. I read it shortly after the release and I wanted to be her best friend. With wicked intellect and brilliant theological scholarship, Rachel’s writing has the tremendous ability to make you feel like you are sitting in a coffeehouse having a chat with your besties.

Once it was decided that were soul-sisters, I invited her to pastor me. I read all of her things. Having only met her in person twice, I never miss the chance to hear her on img_9235.jpg
podcast recordings. I have spent the better part of the last 8 years under her leadership. In the process, she has introduced me to many of my other pastors.  If there is one thing that the past few days has taught me it is this: I must express my gratitude for the leadership that this beautiful and gracious and wise and authentic group of leaders have given to my soul. To Nadia, Glennon, Matthew, Jeff, Sarah, Mike, Jen, Austin and Audrey, know that it is your voices that I wanted to hear the past two days. You are the rocks of deep friendship and grief and Jesus that have allowed me to begin to process my many feelings. I am especially thankful for you today and I can’t imagine the loss you feel. I am sorry. I am just so, so sorry.

Along with many of these thoughtful and brave women and men, Rachel makes regular appearances in my sermons. They have invited me to ask better questions. They have shared their doubts and struggles and missteps and paths of advocacy. They have taught me, and thousands of others, to bravely say when we don’t have it figured out and BECAUSE of that, we have a critical place in the ocean on faith and the Church. Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about waiting to have Rachel sign one of her books at the Evolving Faith conference. This particular book is my favorite in her library. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church is perhaps THE book that helped me want to write. Rachel writes her story in the light of the Sacraments. As I have stumbled to find my legs as a writer, I have continually looked to this book for inspiration and hope. If you have not read this book, I beg you order it now. You will not regret it.

Today is Monday. It has taken me 48 hours to put together some words. In that period, I keep going back to the wise words of my sister-pastor-best friend that came through at 12:17 on Saturday. She was one of the first people I wanted to talk to when I got the news. She gets me. She gets my love for and hang-ups with the Church. These were her brilliant instructions to me, “We have more work to do to fill that void in the world.” Rachel will never be gone. Her writing and legacy will teach and instruct for generations to come. But to those of us left here in this life, I feel a sense of commission. I have been taught by one of the greatest thinkers and lights of this generation. Her voice cannot be replaced, but without her walking beside us and leading the way, we are called to get louder and louder. The world needs to hear all the things that Rachel Held Evans taught us. That is where I will channel my grief.

One of the songs on the BACKBONE playlist epitomizes my thoughts the last few days. I just keep singing it when I feel the sadness. Thank you, Rachel, for teaching me that songs like this – filled with truth and doubt and honesty – are exactly what my Creator wants to hear from us.

You Have Me

Out on the farthest edge
There in the silence
You were there

My faith was torn to shreds
Heart in the balance
But you were there

Always faithful
Always good
You still have me
You still have my heart

I thought I had seen the end
Everything broken
But you were there

I’ve wandered in heaven’s gates
I’ve made my bed in hell
But you were there still

Always faithful
Always good
You still have me
You still have my heart

You have me
You have me
You have my heart completely

1 thought on “I’ll Miss Your Voice, Pastor: A Tribute to RHE

  1. I knew this would hit you so hard, Lacy. I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for introducing me to her. I love you. Arlis

    Like

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