A few weeks ago, the world lost a bright, burning light named Rachel Held Evans. Rachel was an incredible writer and speaker whose influence, particularly on people who felt ostracized by the evangelical community, simply can’t be understated. Her death—and, more specifically, the public response to her death—got me thinking about the incredible impact she made during her life. And that got me wondering, what makes for a life well-lived?
Like thousands of others, I’d never met Rachel—but the news of her death hit me like a ton of bricks. It was devastating to find out that this woman whose brave thoughts and words had moved me and challenged me so deeply was now gone. It was heartbreaking to know that her work on this side of Heaven was done. That her husband and small children will now have to go on without her.
What was it about her that made so many of us feel personal devastation at the news of her passing—that prompted thousands to take to social media and remember her with #BecauseofRHE? (If you haven’t, you should really go through some of these posts on Twitter or Instagram. You will be astounded by the impact she had on so many people.)
Love, Grace and Compassion: Fruits of a Well-Lived Life
I don’t think it was because she was immensely popular. Or because she had built some kind of empire around herself and her brand. It certainly wasn’t because she strove to please the masses. Rachel was constantly sparring with Christian leaders about hot button issues that she knew would make her unpopular among many mainstream Christians. And it wasn’t because she had tons of awards or accolades to her name.
I think what made her so dear and precious to so, so many of us was that her life really, truly bore the fruit of a person living out love, grace and compassion. There was just so much evidence of her sincere heart, for Jesus and for people—all of them. Especially the ones who’d been turned off from faith, who had been told they were unworthy and they didn’t belong.
She extended grace and fairness to everyone she came across, even those who completely disagreed with her views. No one was unworthy or unlovable or too far gone in her eyes. We were all worthy of love, dignity and compassion.
A Good Life is a Fruit-Bearing Tree
What makes for a life well-lived? At the end of the day, I believe it comes down to the fruits your life has produced. I don’t think it matters so much what degrees you achieved, what positions of power you held, or which important people you knew.
In the end, a life well-lived will be evidenced by its fruits. Did you make people feel loved—did you include, rather than exclude? Did you stand up for those who needed you? Were you for people, instead of against them? Did your words uplift and heal, rather than wound? Did love and grace leak out of you everywhere you went? Jesus says in Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit,” and Proverbs 11:30 tells us, “A good life is a fruit-bearing tree.” The legacy of your life is in the fruit it produced. And that fruit overflows in the lives of the people you touched, long after you might be gone.
It’s hard for me to imagine a world without the wisdom, kindness, and generosity of Rachel Held Evans. It feels like she had so many words left to write, so many more lessons left to teach us. But I am so moved by the fruits of her well-lived life. I am so convicted by the ongoing outpouring of love from those she impacted. There is so much goodness and love in her wake, and her thoughts and words will continue to move hearts even in her physical absence.
This is the kind of life I want to live. So that when all is said and done, the fruits of my life will speak to the kind of person I was. I’m so grateful to Rachel for setting the example.
If you haven’t read any of Rachel’s work, I strongly suggest that you do. You can check out her books and explore her past blog posts here.