BLOG––Encouraged by Faith

And then?

Posted by Stephen Kenney on

I've read other books by Rachel Held Evans.  A couple of years ago I heard her present at a seminar.  She always has provocative things to say.  So it was with great anticipation that I sat down tonight to read her book “Inspired.”  (It also helped that Gerry DeBoer recommended that I read it.)

This was the most unusual experience of reading a book I have ever had.  While I was profiting from her thoughts and being challenged by some of her conclusions, I was also keenly aware that this was her last book.  She died this year at the tender age of 37. 

I had an unpleasant jar when she began to tell a story about her son.  I heard her description of her interactions with him when he was very young. My heart was torn because her description was so sweet and endearing and brought back so many wonderful memories for me, but also because I knew she is no longer available for her son.  The juxtaposition of the sweet lullaby with the funeral dirge was almost more than I could bear. 

As she closed, her love for her husband, parents, and in-laws wafted through the pages.  The awareness that these are now words from the grave for her dearest ones makes me so grateful that her words were so kind, so generous.  What a blessing to her family for them to be able to see how deeply she loved them.

As I approached the last pages, I had a deepening sense that I just wanted to set the book aside to either finish later or never.  I feel the same way when I watch a documentary about Abraham Lincoln.  I always hope that this time he and Mrs. Lincoln will agree to forego Ford's Theater since the Grants were a late cancellation.  I want a different ending. I want a sequel.

In her epilogue, she tells of a friend who breathlessly keeps conversations going by saying “And then!? And then!?”  I thought the same thing as she closed with the image of her son nestled close to her as they had a conversation about elephants.  She doesn't just answer his ill-formed questions, but instead takes the question as an invitation to dialogue, just as God often answers our insistent ill-formed question (Well? What is it? Yes or No!?) by telling us a story.  

And then the book ended. Rachel didn't know it would be her last. There was no reason to suspect that. We have lost her.  She will write no more books for us.  I love her faith and her devotion to family.  That is her greatest legacy.  Yet the highest praise I can give her as an author is that I feel cheated not being able to read what comes next.  I'm left saying, “and then?”

I close the book, drinking in every last word, paying attention to details I usually skip over, because I know this is it.  With a faith she has helped me form, I ask God, “Why her?  Why now?”


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