“I’m not a vision board kind of person,” I always said, most likely with a slight eye roll, when anyone mentioned the concept — until my sister asked last month if we wanted to create vision boards the weekend all three sisters were going to be at her house. There was some mention of our visit aligning with the spring new moon or something, I don’t know. I just figured it would be a fun way to spend a few hours, so I gathered what magazines I have laying around and brought them with me.
“I’m not a vision board kind of person” is, I now realize, both a false and entirely stupid thing to say. Do I try to be intentional about setting goals and growing as a person? Yes. Do I enjoy creative projects? Yep. Do I like visual reminders of the ideals I strive for in my life? I actually do.
The ironic thing is the vision boards never got made. We did spend an afternoon sipping cocktails and flipping through magazines, cutting out things that spoke to us while catching up on one another’s lives. But eventually it was dinnertime, and then other plans got in the way, and when it was time to hug goodbye two days later, my vision board was still just a pile of clippings and a mostly blank poster board. I brought it home and slid it under my bed, which is where it’s been gathering dust for a month.
And then yesterday a writer and best-selling author I’d never met but greatly admired died, and my grief brought my vision board out from its hiding place and onto the kitchen table to finish.
Rachel Held Evans was a brave Christian writer who wasn’t afraid to peer under the shiny layers of her religion and poke at its dark underbelly, to question its leaders’ judgments and explore the multi-dimensional sides to issues so many turn into rigid, simplistic proclamations of what’s “right” or “wrong.” Hers was an inclusive voice that called countless marginalized people back to the table for conversation, communion, compassion and faith. She made it OK to question the details of my childhood religion, to question my beliefs, to poke around inside my own soul for the truth. She made doubt, curiosity, discernment and speaking truth to power feel not only safe, but necessary.
Rachel was 37, and left behind a husband and two children, ages 3 and almost 1. I was unexpectedly gutted by the news of her death; the world felt, quite simply, less kind and less tolerant without her.
Also, as a writer, a mother and a human, I was overcome with the privilege and responsibility I have to wring out every last drop of passion and kindness and talent and love and life inside me while I can. Vision boards are not meant to be half-finished under beds. Essays and manuscripts are not meant to stay on my laptop (or rattling around in my brain) indefinitely. Trips are meant to be taken, not just daydreamed about.
If my time on this planet in this body is over tomorrow, I will be leaving without having finished all that I came to do. It will have to be enough — what I’ve done, whom I’ve loved, what I’ve written, how I’ve tried so far. It will be up to those left behind to forgive my mistakes, to give the love I can no longer, and to hold onto the words and times and laughter I shared with them. With you.
Mostly, I hope you will say of me: “She was a vision board kind of person.”
“When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word, we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t quite fit our preferences and presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone and turn a complicated, beautiful and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.” ~ Rachel Held Evans
“If same-sex relationships are really sinful, then why do they so often produce good fruit-loving families, open homes, self-sacrifice, commitment, faithfulness, joy? And if conservative Christians are really right in their response to same-sex relationships, then why does that response often produce bad fruit-secrets, shame, depression, loneliness, broken families, and fear?” ~ Rachel Held Evans
“My friend Adele describes fundamentalism as holding so tightly to your beliefs that your fingernails leave imprints on the palm of your hand… I think she’s right. I was a fundamentalist not because of the beliefs I held but because of how I held them: with a death grip. It would take God himself to finally pry them out of my hands.” ~ Rachel Held Evans