When I was a little girl, my mother used to draw these makeshift coloring pages to keep me busy at times where there were no coloring books around. I called them church windows because when I was done coloring all of the different loops with different colors, the result reminded me of the stained glass windows at church. I even buffed the crayon sometimes with a paper towel to give my masterpiece a glossy/glassy effect.
I haven’t thought about these for years. I have two kids of my own and it occurred to me that I’ve never even made church windows for them to color. Yet, this weekend with the tragic passing of Rachel Held Evans, I couldn’t get these little coloring pages out of my mind. I felt an insatiable need to draw my own church window and color the heck out of it until something beautiful would appear.
So I listened and I did.
As I colored I grieved. I thought about Rachel, her family and friends, her incredible legacy, and the community she helped each one of us find. I realized that losing the church has been a grieving process much like the scribble I was coloring.
Healing isn’t linear. Sometimes we wish it were because we want an end to the process. We want to stop hurting. We want to stop the pain. However, we don’t travel a straight line through the 5 stages of loss. We roam on a line that resembles an unraveling knot.
Sometimes we’re reflecting in denial and bargaining. Sometimes we’re recovering through depression and anger. Sometimes we are rising up in acceptance and rebuilding a new narrative. Yet, with each loop and twist and turn we travel through, we are given the chance to paint it and create something new from wherever we are.
This is what Rachel Held Evans gave to so many of us- new church windows to color and peer through. She helped create a space for so many of us that found ourselves unraveling, and spiritually homeless on the outside of the church we once belonged. She helped build a vast community of seekers, doubters, believers, unbelievers, and just plain misfits galore. I didn’t even realize how close our community really is until this past weekend when we lost her, one of our own.
We may have left the evangelical church but we definitely found another home in each other. I hesitate to call this community a church because it is so much more than four walls. It has no walls. It is space. It is eternal space made of new church windows which are created from our hearts, lives, grief, experiences, losses, and discoveries.
May we continue creating a sanctuary for all people that find themselves on the outs. May we continue this Holy work of affirming all, fighting for all, and healing all.
“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are
And there’s always room for more.”
Rachel Held Evans