In humble gratitude

In 2014, on my old blog that had decent page views, faithful advertisers and loyal subscribers, I published an Open Letter to Michael Brown’s mama after his shooting death at the hands of police. I conveyed my deep sympathy for her loss and my sadness over the way her baby’s name was being drug through the mud as his youthful mistakes were being blamed for the unjust actions of adults sworn to protect.

While I knew my opinion was not popular amongst my Facebook friends, I was completely unprepared for the level of vitriol and hate that filled my inbox after hitting publish on that post. And the source of that hate, judgment and nastiness were my “Christian” readers who felt that I was “abandoning my faith” and “giving officers a death sentence” and “bowing to political correctness”.

Room for Questions, Room for Doubt

I had already begun feeling less and less connected to the big C church for a few years at that point. After reading Radical (by David Platt), I had acknowledged how shallow my own faith had been as well as the faith of those around me in our privileged, white, middle-class bubble. Then we adopted a black child and my eyes were quickly jolted open by the systemic and pervasive racism that still exists in our country.

I was also in a position of leadership at my local church and had been blindsided by the petty infighting that could take place at a churches business meeting. And, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I was quickly becoming disenfranchised with church. Not with God, as people so often assume the two are mutually exclusive but rather with the American version of Evangelical Christianity.

Then I wrote that article and felt like I had been gut punched. I wrote to my readers as if they were my friends and to be treated in the way I was baffled and hurt me deeply.

It’s important to note that at the time, I didn’t realize I was beginning to deconstruct my faith. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

When you start to question the framework that supports and even taught you your belief and value system, it is very unsettling. I questioned if my salvation was secure, given that I was questioning the views and behavior of those that had led me to Jesus.

Around that same time, I found an author on Twitter who seemed to be in my brain. She was vocal about the very same issues I was feeling strongly about and articulated them emphatically and beautifully. She was questioning some of the very same things but it was still evident that she deeply loved Jesus. Her name was Rachel Held Evans.

Several months later, she published a book called Searching for Sunday. I’m surprised I don’t have whiplash from all the nodding in agreement I did while devouring the text.

She put words to my angst in passages like this:

“I realize I can no more break up with my religious heritage than I can with my parents. I may not worship in an evangelical church anymore or even embrace evangelical theology, but as long as I have an investment in the church universal, I have an investment in the community that first introduced me to Jesus. Like it or not, I’ve got skin in the game”


“Two thousand years later, John’s call remains a wilderness call, a cry for the margins. Because we religious types are really good at building walls and retreating to temples. We’re good at making mountains out of our ideologies, obstructions out of our theologies, and hills out of our screwed-up notions of who’s in and who’s out, who’s worthy and who’s unworthy. We’re good at getting in the way. Perhaps we’re afraid that if we move, God might use people and methods we don’t approve of, that rules will be broken and theologies questioned. Perhaps we’re afraid that if we get out of the way, this grace thing might get out of hand.”

While the push-back from my readership served to silence me (until it didn’t), Rachel was brave and stood up against so much more resistance than I could ever imagine with grace, dignity and integrity.

As my deconstruction journey continued throughout the last several years, Rachel’s voice was grounding and comforting as well as challenging at times. During the last Presidential election, I was pissed and sometimes my opinions got drowned out by my anger. Rachel maintained composure in a way I envied and shared her thoughts in intelligent versus emotional ways which enabled people to hear her message much clearer than mine was coming through.

I can’t believe she’s gone. I can’t believe that her babies will grow up without their mama. I can’t believe that I won’t be able to look to her for guidance and inspiration as I continue my journey walking with Jesus and walking away from toxic theology.

I’m going to raise my voice from here on out. I’m going to do it in a way that models what Rachel taught…writing with humility, offering grace but not being willing to tow the line because that’s what expected. I recently cleared out my blog and started from scratch. I’m not writing to the audience I walked away from five years ago. I’m writing to those who are loving the people on the margins, the ones that are comfortable with doubt, the ones that are seeking to be more like Jesus and less like the Pharisees. And, I have the courage to do that because of Rachel Held Evans. I will forever appreciate the lessons I’ve learned from watching her.

Because of Rachel, I feel heard. I feel validated. I feel supported. I feel grateful. And, I can only pray that I can leave a fruitful legacy behind in the way she has.

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