Oh, Rachel.

I recently finished reading, “Inspired,” by Rachel Held Evans. I bought the book the day the news came that Rachel died, basically out of the blue, in May 2019. She died of an allergic reaction to a medication when being treated for a simple infection. It was a stunning loss to progressive Christianity.

My friend Sheila, who I’ve had many conversations about faith with over the years, called the day of Rachel’s death. Sheila is a nurse and was dumbstruck by the news. We all were. We wept on the phone together for a friend we’d never met.

I’d read Rachel’s previous books, including “A Year in Biblical Womanhood,” which I found a delightful study in how to be a modern Christian woman who loves your faith but also doesn’t want to sleep in a tent in the front yard away from your family during your time of the month. (If you’ve read it, you get the joke. Rachel had a way of pushing boundaries that made many of us laugh and realize man’s hand is all over the Bible.)

I was so glad to have listened to “Searching for Sunday” via audiobook. Listening to Rachel describe visiting churches across the United States, ranking their after-service casseroles, and just hearing her southern twangy voice made her so real. I wanted to sit next to her, ranking macaroni dishes, listening to the stories of Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists across the land.

Unlike anyone else I’ve read, she spoke to my doubts and love of Christ. In “Inspired,” she discusses themes of the Bible with her typical candor and humor. She takes something so sacred and strips away the pomp and says, “Here. Read this. Let’s laugh at how dumb this part is and how it contradicts this part and instead take this bigger meaning from it. The Bible is for you. Jesus loves you. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prostitute or a prosecutor. Just read. Trust me.”

But she says it so much better.

I loved this book. I miss her. Finishing “Inspired” felt like attending a funeral for a far away friend. If you’re interested, she has a new book coming out later this year — finished by one of her actual friends. “Wholehearted Faith” is on pre-order. I can’t wait for November.