A True Voice. With thanks to Rachel Held Evans.

It’s only a few years ago that I became aware of the name and the person and the work of Rachel Held Evans.  I don’t remember how I was introduced to her writing. I know that I dug in and started with Searching for Sunday.  I know that within a couple of hundred words, I was hooked.

I was hearing the voice of a real person.  A genuine voice. An honest voice. We were not face-to-face, but I felt mind-to-mind with a person.  I felt like I understood her. I felt like she would understand me.

And I use the word ‘felt’ in those statements quite intentionally.  This was first of all an intellectual connection. But it was powered by an emotional bond, somehow.  And these were born together. They were twin aspects of the inward affirmation: This is a voice I need to hear.

I appreciate and thank God that Rachel’s journey, shared brilliantly in what she wrote and said, has reached and inspired and affirmed women everywhere, among these most certainly millennials.  I am decidedly in neither category, by either gender or generation, but her spirit was kindred. I suspect in this that I am not just an outlier. Rachel touched on truths of our time and Christianity in our day in a manner of lasting significance.  Not only touched. But dove deep. Her contribution, and that of those whom she has counted as colleagues, will remain of value after her own generation has passed.

What I learned profoundly this morning, rising this Sunday and finding news of her death as the first of this day for me, is that a connection of minds, as I would describe mine with her, is as powerful (at least) as any other.  It is connection enough to shake foundations.

I never met Rachel Held Evans in person.  I never heard her speak live. Today I have read powerful memories shared by those who knew her as close friend.  I can claim none of that. But the force of her own journey, now ended, shared as it has been in honest and shining prose, left me shaking in deep sorrow and loss this morning.  Left me thinking of the grief of her husband, Dan, and of the dimension beyond measure of the loss their children will suffer. Left me saddened for the church universal, which needs to hear more from Rachael.

The beautiful strength of those who, like her, are wondering and creating and believing and writing in similar (though unique) voices will have to do.  And they will much more than merely ‘do’. They will inspire and move us as well, as they are already doing.

But I was first surprised, momentarily bewildered, and finally heartily grateful this morning at church, when sharing with our congregation something of Rachel’s contribution and a few of her words, I was overwhelmed with emotion, with deep sorrow.  I could hardly continue. Hardly speak. It is not only okay, it is important to pause to recognize and say that we have all suffered deep loss in the death of this – yes, true indeed – woman of valor.

Dear Rachel, inspire us now from home with the energy and commitment and courage to doubt and wonder and speak the truth as you have done so well.  Thank you for all the gifts you have given, and those you have left behind with such generosity.

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Letting Go (in memory of John Sassani)

Letting Go

in memory of John Sassani

In the beginning

the thing is taking hold.

Picture the tiny fingers encircling yours

and gripping with surprising strength.

There was a time when

your tiny fingers learned to do the same.

Thousands of days follow,

with the order of the day still to

take hold

of knowledge

of love

of skill

of gains of every kind.

Take hold.

How strange it seems after all those days

that the most gripping chapter

of the story may be

the letting go. Be it

in old age, or by loss too early,

we become less able to take hold of the new

less able to maintain our grip

on the old and familiar.

How to learn the art

and accept the beauty

of letting go?

Each path is unique and

in a manner solitary.

In the midst of rich community

you heard the call to let go,

beginning with the deep within

of memory.

I cannot know how hard that must have been

or whether you spoke of it thus or not.

Perhaps it was beyond words, from the first.

But I know the letting go is always mutual,

for we who are letting go, and those

who are compelled to let go of us.

Those who still in their time of taking hold

hear an unfamiliar invitation to gently

generously and with gratitude let go,

to release you into the good God from whom

you graciously came to birth

and took hold,

and in the end, let go.

I remember you in the early years of taking hold.

You did it well.  With a combination of skill and tenderness and faith.

A winning combination.

In those years the thought of letting go,

if ever we thought it,

seemed only for the old, and a thousand lifetimes away.

But it comes at last, on its own time

and on its own terms, the letting go.

And you have done it, I pray, just as well

as the taking hold.

Pray we do the same in due course,

good priest, good man, good friend to many.

(J. McGinty, 4/24/19)