(Although a beautiful name, we are not naming our daughter Eve. There may be confusion because this blog is called ‘eveschronicles‘…so please read Who is Eve?to find out why. On with the reveal.)
A name is full of meaning and can be powerful, so choosing a name for our daughter has been something we’ve spent much time discussing. Hilariously, Rachel means ‘little lamb’ and Russ means ‘fox-coloured (red)’. So this lamb and her fox have been keen to identify our daughter without reference to the animal kingdom!
We are naming our precious girl Anneka Jane.
Anneka means Grace, one whom ‘God has shown Favour’
Jane means ‘Gift from God’
These two names hold a vault of meaning to us. Firstly, my sister is Jani Ann. She is the second born girl in our family, my slightly younger sidekick and best friend growing up. Today, she is a woman I am very proud to be so closely related to! She carries a sassy passion for life and music in one hand, and a fierce compassion for people and the marginalized in her other hand. We share a memory bank of stories from each chapter of our lives and throughout, I’ve always called her Jane. Anneka Jane is a play on her name, in her honour. Jani Ann.
Secondly, the meaning of these names hold great depth for both Russ and I. I was raised in the church and the concept of God’s grace was not unfamiliar to me throughout my early years; yet grace has become the cornerstone of my life over the past decade in a way that has brought power, peace and joy to my life in a redeeming way. It was grace that touched my young heart and brought me to my knees at a tender age where I recited a version of the sinner’s prayer. Over the years that followed, I allowed the perfection of Grace itself to be muddied by natural laws of earned favour, performance-based approval and self-righteous merits. Striving persisted into the post-prodigal chapters of my adulthood. My desire to gain favour with God was fervent, but the road I believed would lead me there was merely a gauntlet of service, prayer and study. I was constantly examining myself and my eyes were fixed on me.
The narrative of ‘try harder, pray more, sacrifice greater, serve further’ was the undertone in what I heard from pulpits and read from the Bible through my ‘works-based’ lens. The questions mounted and stole confidence from my secure place in Christ. Was I doing enough? Could I do more to secure God’s love? Was I worthy of heaven? Could I lose my salvation?
This thinking becomes detrimental to grace. My belief that I had to work hard to retain my place in God’s ‘good graces’, produced in me a self-righteous arrogance for putting in the ‘hard work’. Religious entitlement tainted my perspective as I took on a ‘justice-seeking, sell-all-and-give-to-the-poor missionaries’ identity. It pains me to admit this, but it was easy to believe that somehow I was more pleasing to God than others, because I had taken certain steps of faith and given up a cushy existence, to serve children who were orphaned and HIV positive, in Uganda. I’d believed that a missional lifestyle would secure my place with God, and I rested in my own works. Such false security.
This religious theology of “earning grace” can so easily cross over to the belief that if we are ‘good‘ people, we are accepted by God. In fact, this concept has so deeply influenced our society, that mainstream thinking promotes the concept that being ‘good’ IS the path to heaven, for those who acknowledge there may be a heaven and hell. I believed this too, just in a slightly more ‘churched’ construction. After all, it can seem difficult to embrace that God is Love AND that good, charitable and kind behaviour in itself is not the way to heaven.
The biblical parable of the man with two sons sheds light on two stances in life that have kept me from receiving God’s grace. One son is recklessly sinful, choosing a scandalous path far from the Father’s house. He is the picture of unrighteousness. The other son is impeccably good, choosing a life of service in his Fathers home, believing he was earning his place. He is the picture of self-righteousness. Yet the beauty of the parable is seen in the Father. He does not shun his unrighteous son but waits in constant anticipation for his return. Equally, He does not reward the self-righteous son in relation to his service but hopes that this son will realize all that is already rewarded, by virtue of sonship, not servanthood. He offers each an identity which is intrinsically based on their identity to Him and is unrelated to their behaviours/track-records. In the same way that Jesus did not have to sin, to become sin…..we do not rely on behaving righteously, to become the righteousness of God. And yet…this gift of God’s righteousness compels us to be like God as we embrace His identity for ourselves.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
This grace. The grace that changed me, changed my wants, transformed my desire, reiterates over and over to me WHO I AM…..because of WHO HE IS. This grace, this Father, who waited patiently while I rebelled, while I grasped for life in futile efforts- He waited for me without imputing my wrongs on me when I returned to Him. This Father, who saw my good deeds, who watched me proudly strive, sweat and bleed in the service of the poor, hurting and orphaned in His name. He saught me out….reminding me of my true worth- apart from my service. He lit my heart up to serve, from a place of confident identity in Him, rather than in my effort to gain a place with Him.
And now, each day, I live with the knowledge that I am not good, apart from God. But I am a daughter of God, a woman who is accepted because of Jesus gift that I’ve humbly received. This identity comes with the confidence that I am not condemned; rather, I am standing right before God because of Jesus. He is the WAY to God. And in light of this truth, my heart, feet and mind align with Him and I’m continuously being transformed by this identity to look like Him and reflect Him in this world.
I need God’s grace and favour every day, as I look ahead to raising Anneka Jane. And, I want her to know (and Madeleine for that matter) that her identity is not qualified by her abilities nor tainted by her different abilities….but her identity is firmly established by Jesus. He is able to set her feet on solid ground, to welcome her to walk on the waters of life, to lavish her abundantly with health, hope and dignity and He calls her His beloved.
I believe the same grace is for you. Good, bad….or somewhere in-between. Regardless if you strive to be good or strive to find life far from God- His love is for you, His identity is offered to you. Because none of us is perfect on our own, the perfect standards of God were accomplished for you by Jesus- who IS Grace. Hide in Him…..and you will find LIFE ABUNDANTLY
Anneka Jane is already a gift from God. She will carry a name that speaks of the Grace and Favor promised for her….and luckily, there is no reference to the animal kingdom in her name!
We get to meet her on Thursday!