Sunday, May 12, 2019

Eshet Chayil


It's been a hard week. In each still moment, my mind went back to Rachel Held Evans. I experienced the wishful thinking and grief again and again, as I would thinking, "Surely it's not true." How can she not laugh again? Hold her children again? Console her spouse, Dan?

Julia, you may tell me, she will do these things again in heaven. As true as that may be, it is not enough to stop the tide of unremitting sorrow that is swamping them and so many others now. Heaven is not meant to be a salve to stop earthly pain. It is the answer to the pain caused by the forces that oppose God, but it does not mean that pain is not real when it is experienced in this life.

I've literally thought about her body growing cold, her ashes or her dust, her 3-year-old wondering again where Mommy is, her husband replaying last words over and over. I think about the small anniversaries passing by at a horrible clip- last week she, a month ago she, two months ago she...

A friend pointed out that this is terrifying in many ways. It is, I agreed, because this is the kind of fluke risk we have not accepted. We have considered (or not considered) the risks of car travel, heart disease, breast cancer. We know that there are wars and even shootings in public places. We've weighed the effort to keep ourselves in good health and to balance our rest and our work.

We don't weigh the risk of a fluke medical situation when we go to the hospital to have something treated.

Even when we know the US has very poor maternal care, especially for black and brown women, we still assume most things will be fine.

An unusual reaction to medication, causing our brain to seize, is not in our catalog of worries.

Or it wasn't.

The way we make it as parents to simultaneously try to control everything and to accept that we control almost nothing. Rachel's death showed us that we aren't in control of things we hadn't even fever dreamed.

What can we do?

We can remind each other of the low chances of this kind of death and that it likely wasn't preventable.

We can work to prevent the deaths that can be eclipsed, especially with regard to maternity and maternal health.

We can promote the truth about vaccines and preventative medicine.

And we can assure one another that if the worst happens, we will always speak of them, we will mother their children, and we will not let their good legacy die.

I think that's what I need to hear today and what I will be telling the other women of valor whom I know.

And it's what I will say to Rachel when I see her. Or what I am telling her now, which she may already know.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Tabitha of Our Time

When I was a kid, the term "dorkus" was not one of endearment. I distinctly remember my parents saying that my siblings and I shouldn't call one another that because Dorcas was woman in the Bible who did good things and was remembered well. I honestly cannot recall if I've ever actually met a Dorcas in name, but I have met many who emulated Dorcas/Tabitha (Acts 9) in spirit.

Dorcas was the woman's name in Greek and it was Tabitha in Aramaic. For the rest of this post I will refer to her as Tabitha. The only reason I bring up the Dorcas part of the story is because if Rachel Held Evans didn't actually write something about giggling as a child during that reading, I know that she would have done it. 

Rachel died early this morning, following complications from treatment of flu plus a UTI. She was four days older than me and left behind two very young children, a spouse (Dan), her family, close friends, extended support network, and a world that needed her writing. 

To me, RHE was the Tabitha of our time, strong in discipline and courageous in faith. I deeply resonated with her own pain at feeling rejected and eventually shut out of the evangelical faith of her childhood. Moreover, her willingness to continue to write, to speak, and to challenge powers and principalities of this world regarding so many issues was a genuine example of what it means to let one's light shine to give glory to God in heaven. 

As she has been sick and now on the day of her death, we who mourn are like Tabitha's friend in Acts- raising up the bits of her writing to show others. "See her work." "Look at how good this is." "She did such powerful things." To any who will come close, we pour out our grief- at her youth, at the randomness and horror of her sudden death, and our heartbreak for her family. 

I ache. 

“The Proverbs 31 woman is a star not because of what she does but how she does it—with valor. So do your thing. If it’s refurbishing old furniture—do it with valor. If it’s keeping up with your two-year-old—do it with valor. If it’s fighting against human trafficking . . . leading a company . . . or getting other people to do your work for you—do it with valor. Take risks. Work hard. Make mistakes. Get up the next morning. And surround yourself with people who will cheer you on.” - The Year of Biblical Womanhood

I am stricken. 

“But there is a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome.”  - Searching for Sunday

When I first heard, I actually looked down to see if I was wearing a shirt that I could physically tear because garment rending seemed the only way to respond. 

“I am a Christian,” I concluded, “because the story of Jesus is still the story I’m willing to risk being wrong about.” - Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again. 

The death of a 37-year-old woman is not well with my soul. The death of a woman who spoke truth to the forces that oppose God and God's will is not well with my soul. The grief of tiny children, a husband, parents who did not plan to bury their child is not well with my soul. And it never will be.

Apparently, with this Tabitha, there was no Peter to see our grief and raise her from her bed for this life. I will not pretend to be okay with that.

I will not turn to platitudes, easy answers, or quick comfort. This absolutely sucks beyond belief. It is horrible. And, to be honest, I do not think I can be convinced that this was or is God's plan. And I don't think Rachel would have thought so either.

So, what did Tabitha's friends do in Acts? They wept. They told stories of her. They consoled one another. They shared their pain. They treasured her work and showed it to others. They told her story. They continued in that, for their friend, right up to the resurrection.

Sounds like the thing to do to me. #becauseofRHE