A couple years ago I blogged about my desire to add more books written by women to my library. I had begun to see that my worldview was overwhelmingly shaped by the writings of men and I wanted to change that, so I asked for help from my online community. One of the first names that was sent to me was Rachel Held Evans. I had already discovered Rachel’s blog and really liked what she had to say, but I decided to add her name to my list of authors whose books I would be intentional about reading. Well, it took me nearly 2 years, but I finally made it happen! I picked up her latest book, Searching for Sunday.
The primary thread that runs throughout this book for me is a nearly eerie similarity between Rachel Held Evans’ story and my own. This commonality was found in everything from the youth group games we used to play–like Chubby Bunny, the uncomfortable disconnect that eventually became all too noticeable between myself and the beliefs that used to feel like a perfect fit, the attempt at doing a small church experiment outside of the traditional denominational options, and even falling into the warm arms of a local Episcopal Church called St. Luke’s (though mine is in Denver). Some of those similarities brought a smile to my face, but mostly they served to amplify how much I resonated with this beautiful book.
One of the most profound impacts of this book for me was the way it helped to make sense of a part of my story I have been tempted to decorate with exaggerations. I used to believe that the only legitimate reason for leaving my old identification as an Evangelical was a deep wound. I suppose I thought this was the easiest excuse. Everyone would simply hear my story and say, “That makes sense. I would have left too!” But, that is not my story–and apparently it’s not Rachel Held Evans’ story either.
My questions and doubts became such a huge part of my inner dialogue that I could no longer simply listen to a sermon and “take it in.” Instead, I needed to pick it apart. I found myself leaving nearly every sermon angry, confused, sad, or a mixture of all three. In truth, I was experiencing what my friend Kathy Escobar calls “Faith Shift.” It was incredibly refreshing to hear Rachel give voice to the fact that deep wounds are not the only reason one might need to leave their church. In a faith stream that emphasizes belief as much as the Evangelical stream does, deciding I believed something different proved too heavy a burden to bear.
Like Rachel Held Evans, I eventually found a rhythm of spirituality that honestly nourished my soul without having to hide from those pesky doubts and questions. I have learned to embrace the beauty of mystery and my journey has been nothing short of transformational since. I loved Rachel’s exploration of her journey guided by the Sacraments of Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Marriage. There is sometimes a misguided judgment that when someone experiences a disillusionment with their system of belief they become less interested in exploring spirituality. This book is yet another beautiful example of how that is simply untrue.
I am truly grateful that I read Searching for Sunday, and if your story resembles my own, I can’t encourage you enough to pick it up. You won’t be sorry!