Tag Archives: book

review: Rachel Held Evans’ Searching for Sunday

searching for sunday review

Rachel Held Evan’s Searching for Sunday is about church: its triumphs and failings, its hypocrisy and grace. Rachel, like me, grew up in a well-intentioned Evangelical community where the Bible is accepted as fact and the “plain truth” is within easy reach. It’s a culture of black and white morality, where spiritual cliches are a dime a dozen, rolling off the tongue the second something happens that doesn’t jive with the accepted worldview. Naturally, it has its limitations. Suffering is not easily alleviated with a dismissive utterance of “it’s all in God’s plan.” Rachel, like me, was encouraged to have a sense of ownership over her personal relationship with Jesus and, when the questions she wrestled with in the quiet started to gain momentum – when she started to ask them out loud – the church was unequipped to answer in anything but cliches.

Rachel, like me, flailed around, trying out new churches and new denominations, but the questions burned unanswered still, and she left.

Searching for Sunday‘s framework, quite fittingly, is the Sacraments: Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing the Sick, and Marriage. These themes, like the Sacraments themselves, act as a jumping off point for a journey of faith. They encourage exploration and mystery; they don’t operate in spiritual cliches. One begins to realize that sometimes, the best answer to our questions is simply the space to wrestle with them. Rachel deals eloquently with this wrestling, acknowledging that the hurt sometimes makes it impossible to be in community, but always seeking the Truth of Christ’s unconditional love. She never gives up on that, and I think that’s the key to learning from the dark times in our spiritual lives. You may feel directionless, but you are moving forward if you are oriented toward love.

Searching for Sunday is memoir, but it is more than that. It’s theology. Steeped in the Gospel narratives, deeply respectful of those first disciples, and appreciative of the long, tumultuous years of violence perpetrated by and against the institutionalized church, it seeks to explore and understand what it looks like to do church now. It reminds us that Christian community was essential from the very beginning, that we don’t get to do Christian life on our own. 

Searching for Sunday gave me closure. I’d been hurt so badly by the church years ago, and I thought I’d moved on. But the truth is that I needed this reassurance that my pain was real, that my concerns were legitimate, and that the dark path I trudged through in the aftermath of leaving was not in vain. I needed someone to say, simply, “me too.”

As I sit here now with the sunshine streaming through the window and the birds singing and a cool spring breeze hitting my legs, I can tell you that I’m no longer searching for Sunday. I have found home in church community again. I am thankful for the path, and the hands that held me in the darkness, nudging me forward. I am thankful for space for the questions. I am thankful that God gave Rachel Held Evans the voice, and the heart, to tell her story, because it is my story, too.

I received an advance copy ofSearching for Sunday Searching for Sunday for review. Searching for Sunday is available for preorder here. It’ll hit store shelves this Tuesday, April 14.

*Artwork: Baptism by Ruth Catherine Meharg; used with permission.

weekly review

last red leafThis week felt a little off, sort of like Marie Cardouat’s surrealist artwork in the game, Dixit (more on that later). Either my positive attitude or my energy level – or both – tend to run in a cyclical pattern: one week on, one week off. I had such a satisfying week before last that I guess my brain gave my body a break without telling me.

That’s why I need to reflect on it now, to give myself closure and perspective.

This week:

  • a customer compared my coworkers and I to the donuts on a Krispy Kreme conveyor belt in terms of efficiency; it was meant as the highest of compliments.
  • I wrote another poem. I feel really good about this one.
  • I gladly partook in American Apparel’s Friends and Family sale. Hooray for checking things off my wishlist.
  • I considered joining choir, backed out, then considered taking ballet lessons again.
  • three of my sister’s photographs were accepted into a Jacksonville art show; it’s the first non-student exhibit in which her work will be featured!
  • I met with a friend at a local coffee shop and had a marvelous time conversing on various topics (and imbibing too much caffeine) as the snow came down.
  • several friends and acquaintances visited the coffee shop where I work.
  • I talked for nearly forty minutes with some customer friends about poetry, the elderly, and the Vietnam war. He survived some of the worst parts of the war and writes poetry now to cope and help others through their trauma. It’s really great!
  • Speaking of Vietnam, a customer told a coworker and me that we are beautiful women in Vietnamese (but couldn’t tell us how to answer, thank you, as he forgot the phrase).
  • the sun finally came out on Friday morning, bringing me much cheer.
  • Daniel and I joined some friends for a game night. We played a fun interpretation game called Dixit, which includes whimsical surrealist paintings by Marie Cardouat.
  • I slowly continued to work through the book, Sexing the Body. It’s a good read despite its small print and daunting size.
  • Daniel and I had a heart to heart on my seeming embarrassment over not attending grad school. It was an emotional but necessary discussion on which I’ll reflect in a separate post.
  • my dad was interviewed on the radio about his new book, Working Would Be Great If It Weren’t for Managers.
  • my camera remote came in the mail, so now I can model vintage clothing for my store! I guess that’s this week’s project.

As always with these wrap-up posts, I feel immensely better after reading through my list. So much of my angst is due to an emotional funk rather than any real lack of progress or efficiency. Here’s to another good week!