Weekly Reflection, Friday, June 18
By: Amelia McDaniel
“With Scripture…we’ve been invited into a wrestling match. We’ve been invited to a dynamic, centuries-long conversation with God and God’s people that has been unfolding since creation, one story at a time. If we’re lucky, it will leave us with a limp.” – Rachel Held Evans, Inspired
Rachel Held Evans, an accomplished writer, friend, wife, and mother, would have celebrated her 40th birthday this week. She died in the spring of 2019 after an allergic reaction to medication that triggered massive swelling in her brain. But instead of celebrating a birthday, her friends and family released a beautiful children’s book she began before her death. It is a book that helps explain what God is like to young ears. But it is for us all.
Evans previous writing was not for children, but for adults. She had an incredible gift for opening up Scripture as a place to begin a life with God, again and again, never as a stopping point. She had faith in the wideness of God’s mercy and a fierce belief in setting bigger tables for God’s people rather than the assumption that somehow, we – people – are in charge of the guest list. Her scholarship and courage in wrestling with Scripture and how Scripture is used in our world will be referenced for a lifetime. My books of hers are dog-eared and marked up.
For some background, Evans grew up in the Evangelical Protestant church and became an Episcopalian as an adult. In a blog post where she addresses the controversy this shift caused for some, she writes, “I just happen to worship with a community of Jesus-followers at an Episcopal church, where I’ve reconnected with the power of communion and the sacraments, and where I’ve been loved mightily for just showing up, even with my doubts in tow.”
I didn’t grow up reading the Bible the way Evans did. I grew up learning more about God through the sacraments and liturgy less than two hours away from where Evans lived in Tennessee. Her perspective on and love for the sacred text that is the foundation of those sacraments and liturgy connected me in a new way to Scripture. I am so grateful for her work.
Next week, a group of us will begin reading Inspired, written by Evans in 2018. In it, Evans explores the different writing styles contained in the Scriptures – stories that tell us about origins, deliverance, wisdom, salvation. She carefully and reverently gives those who don’t think they know how to read the Bible a doorway into the stories which shape us. If you can’t join the group, I hope you might consider reading the book over the summer.
“If you are curious, you will never leave the text without learning something new. If you are persistent, you just might leave inspired.” – Rachel Held Evans, Inspired