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We All Die

Rachel Held Evans died this weekend.

I can’t offer a decent eulogy for her – I can string together words about her impact on my life, but hundreds of people are already doing that.

Her death got me thinking about death again. When my chaplain internship ended in April, I gave myself permission to release mortality meditations for a while. But no longer.

On Facebook, I saw the old foolish sentiment that Heaven had another angel, and it infuriated me. Don’t her children, ages 3 and 1, need their mama more than God needed an angel?

As a mom myself, I thought that if I were to die today, God would need to wipe tears from my eyes, because I would weep so desperately over my daughter’s loss. How can heaven be good, when a mother knows her young babies have been left alone?

This death is a reminder to me that we cannot take anything for granted. Part of becoming a parent is being responsible and creating documents to care for your children – a will, guardianship, life insurance. Part of becoming an adult is talking to your family about tough topics – whether you want to be hooked up to machines as long as possible, whether you want to donate organs when you die, and what the wishes of your fellow family members are regarding those topics.

Even more importantly, it reminds me that we cannot gloss over the question of evil and death in our personal theology. Disease and accidents take people indiscriminately. We like to pretend that life is fair, and that no one who is young or necessary or kind or good will die too soon. But it’s not.

The truth is that we all die, every single one of us.

And in my theology, I trust in a God who makes all things well, not a God who keeps worthy men and women alive and on earth. And I know, intellectually, that God will make this well, as She once assured Julian of Norwich.

God promised that all is well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well. And in Showing 32, Julian replied to this:

And all this standing, methought it was impossible that all manner of things should be well, as our Lord shewed in the same time. And as to this I had no other answer in Shewing of our Lord God but this: That which is impossible to thee is not impossible to me: I shall save my word in all things and I shall make all things well.

We hate death, but God created it.

The ecology and biology of the world demands death as part of the cycle of life. Death is the ultimate strike against community and love, but it is not as permanent or terrible as we fear. This is the third week of Easter, the third week celebrating the reality that God taught us about death: that it is only a temporary arrangement.

Jesus came back to the ones He loved.

The creeds proclaim that there is a communion with the saints – the ones who have died before us. Each one of us contains a deathless reality, and it is accessible here on earth. Not in a way we’re used to, but in some mystical way.

My faith teaches me that even though I can’t promise my daughter that I will be with her for the next 50 years, I can promise her that God will be with her. I can’t promise her that I will be safe, but I can promise her that I will be divinely loved. I can’t promise HER safety, but I can promise her the presence and love of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t think God wanted Rachel to die.

I don’t believe that God controls our lives so tightly. I believe that her death, the death of a 37 year old mother who brought encouragement and challenge to so many, is wrong. I believe the world would be better if she were still alive.

But I also believe that God is with her and her family. I believe that God will weave her death into the tapestry of life just as She weaves all the other deaths which shatter lives.

I believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, which teaches me to have hope.

Hope that all will in fact be well. Hope that Rachel and the others who have died have not ceased to exist, but have merely moved to another realm of reality. Hope that we will all see our loved ones again.

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One Comment

  1. If God needed more angels, he would create them. Rachel is with the Lord, but not as an angel. So many “comforting” words are not at all comforting, and many are theologically incorrect. God didn’t cause Rachel to die. This fallen world provided for her death. Death is ugly, painful, tragic. We can only bear it because we have hope in Jesus., who said “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

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