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

6 comments:

Rev. Patricia Raube said...

Beautiful. Thank you. Amen.

Jess Throlson said...

This is beautiful, Julia. Thank you.

Courtenay said...

She reached and touched more people than she could possibly know. Thank you for expressing so beautifully what we are feeling.

Jo said...

Grieving mightily with you, my dear friend. This hurts and sucks so much.

Annemarie said...

Thank you for putting into words what is so difficult to express. She was definitely the Tabitha of our time and I pray that those of us who have been able to sit at her feet will carry her message and ministry forward. I was reading ahead for next weekend and was not ready to see that the Acts text is the account of the raising of Tabitha.

Rev SS said...

Amen! Thank you for this!