By Tony Rossi, Director of Communications
In college, Shannon K. Evans joined a charismatic evangelical community. She met her husband Eric through that church, and they moved to Indonesia to become missionaries, due to a sense of obligation to convert people. But that obligation felt like a burden when Shannon’s efforts weren’t having the effects she envisioned. She was supposed to be the American swooping in with the answer to eternal life, yet the natives were unresponsive. Then came the ballet class.
As a fun activity for the young girls in her community, Shannon watched ballet tutorials on Youtube and began to teach them simple steps. As a result, it was the first time Shannon experienced a “sense of actual connection with these people,” she told me during a “Christopher Closeup” interview. They were all beginners learning together. In a culture that emphasizes God’s power and strength, Shannon realized that approaching people with humility was the better option. It wasn’t just the information she had to impart to them that was important, but also what she could learn from them – and how she could connect with them.
Shannon came to see that embracing weakness gave her a better understanding of the Incarnation and Passion of Jesus – and she wrote a book about her insights called “Embracing Weakness.” She said, “The inclination to gravitate to the power of God is prevalent wherever you go in the Christian tent. It feels good because it makes us feel like winners…It enables some of us to feel superior to others who might not be looking as good and shiny from the outside. But when we look at the gospels, that is not the message that Jesus was coming to present…[We have] a God who came from perfect glory and comfort, who took on the discomforts of flesh, the grief, the pain of what it is to be human. That transforms us, and I think that is the model that can transform the world when we embody that in our relationships the way that Jesus did.”
As her views on faith evolved, Shannon and Eric converted to Catholicism. One reason was that Shannon felt uneasy about the evangelical view of salvation – the idea that you’re saved forever. She said, “I think that salvation is a more mysterious and long-term journey. So that spurred us to begin looking into Catholic teaching, and there we found other things that we agreed with and fell in love with.” One of those areas was the Church’s “theology of suffering.” It struck a chord with Shannon and Eric because of the challenges they were facing with their adopted son, who endured trauma early in his life. Their prior church believed that anything could be healed if you just prayed more. That view, however, fell short when healing didn’t happen.
Shannon said, “We came to identify with this idea that suffering doesn’t always have neat and tidy answers…So, finding that [idea that] suffering could be beautiful, and could lead us closer to Christ – and, more specifically, to birth compassion for our fellow human beings – that is so much of what God has shown me suffering is for.”
Ultimately, Shannon hopes that reading “Embracing Weakness” leads people “to rest in God, and be able to stop striving and stop putting pressure on themselves, and simply be in God. When we do that, we are broken open and able to see how God is moving in the world around us – and that the world around us is actually really beautiful.”
For free copies of the Christopher News Note FINDING CHRIST IN COMMUNITY, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org