Why the Sadness Won’t Go Away: A Tribute to Rachel Held Evans

Why the Sadness Won’t Go Away: A Tribute to Rachel Held Evans May 4, 2020

Years ago at a conference, the husband of a dear friend said to me, “Your work has helped my wife through a tremendously difficult time. Thank you, thank you for what you do.”

Deeply moved I said, “You are so welcome!”

Ten minutes later he found me again and said, “I’m sorry, I thought you were Rachel Held Evans.”

Well, there you go! And who better to defer to than Rachel?

She helped many of us through tremendously difficult times. And through her breakthrough writings and ministry, she will continue to do that for years to come.

She is, indirectly, how I ended up in seminary. She had come to Austin Seminary to speak, and a friend invited me to go hear her. Well, yes! I said. She laid it out about women, about men, about ministry—all with her own challenge and wit and kindness and authenticity. She inspired me and that same day I talked to the registrar about enrolling!

Her death hit me hard and the sadness won’t seem to go away. Why? Too young, gone too soon? Absolutely. A powerful, profound voice for lavish, radical love that will be missed beyond measure? Without question.

I don’t know exactly why, I just know that I will miss her deeply.

Perhaps the best summation of Rachel is the final line of the tribute in The New Yorker. As Karen Swallow Prior wrote, “What I love about Rachel is her uncanny ability to slice through multi-layered, longstanding categories and assumptions and grab hold of a truth that suddenly turns obvious in her hands.”

I love that about her too.

Maybe the sadness is not meant to fully go away. Maybe it is meant to inspire and lift up and energize us all to do better, to love better.

Thank you Rachel.

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About Susan Cottrell
SUSAN COTTRELL is an international speaker whose TEDx talk has more than 1.3 million views. OutSmart magazine called her “The Mother of All MamaBears.” The Advocate dubbed her “our favorite affirming matriarch.” She is a prominent voice for the LGBTQ community and their faith parents who has been featured on ABC’s 20/20, Nightline and Good Morning America, on NBC News Out, and as a contributor on the Our Bible app. She is a public theologian and through her nonprofit organization—FreedHearts—Susan champions the LGBTQ community and families with her authentic love; and she challenges Christians to love as the foundation of faith. She spent 20+ years in the nonaffirming Evangelical church, has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and served as the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin. Her FreedHearts Blog and YouTube videos have millions of viewers, and her books ”Mom, I’m Gay”—Loving Your LGBTQ Child and Strengthening Your Faith; True Colors: Celebrating the Truth and Beauty of the Real You; Radically Included: The Biblical Case for Radical Love and Inclusion; and Be the Love You Want to See in the World are critically acclaimed. She and her husband Rob have been married for 33 years and have five children, two of whom identify as queer.  
“Susan has this fierce, loving, don’t mess with me, Mom vibe.”—Rev Ashley Harness, Auburn Seminary
 You can read more about the author here.

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