As a child I can remember waiting for what seemed like an eternity for my upcoming birthday. What presents would I get? Would mom bake my favorite cake? Would I get to invite my friends over to play? The anticipation was both excruciating and exciting.
This year I will celebrate my birthday in York, England, while leading a group of students on a spring break study abroad program. And, while, I no longer look forward to my birthdays with the same childlike anticipation, I think this year it will hold a special place for me as it will be the first birthday in over twenty-seven years that my name represents whom I am learning to be. So, I’ll light a candle in York Minster to mark this change in my life and to ask for courage to embrace the journey.
You see, it is one thing to announce on social media that I am changing my name, returning to the name I was given at birth. It is another step—and I am learning more difficult of the two—to put the decision into action. Now I have to follow through and face the puzzled glances and awkward pauses. Too, there are the painful silences representing, I suppose, disapproval or being dismissed.
But, I have been bolstered in this process by what I discovered about Eve a few years ago when Melanie Springer Mock and I began writing what became If Eve Only Knew. For years I uncritically bought into the myth that Eve was the source of all evil because she disobeyed and enticed Adam to follow her in sin and shame. Upon closer examination, however, when I revisited her story and sought to place myself in her shoes, I began to see that she was someone who made informed decisions. She realized the tree was good for food, was a delight to one’s eyes, and that it can make one wise. These, in any other context, are excellent reasons to eat the fruit.
Even though it appears Eve did not actually hear the prohibition about the tree, she seemed to realize that eating its fruit would result in death. Still, she ate; the other reasons more persuasive than the risk of her life.
Isn’t this the challenge for all of us?
Staying in the garden represents changeless ease and the fear of Wisdom’s fullest potential while taking the risk of stepping out into the world represents letting the power of death transform us into life without reservation.
I sometimes wonder if we have denigrated Eve so thoroughly because we find it easier to let others determine our lives, their expectations driving us to make decisions we know deep down are not reflections of our truest selves.
It would have been less challenging in many ways for me to go throughout the rest of my life with a name that never felt right to me. The damage was only experienced by me, and like most women, I’ve learned to ignore and dismiss my needs. Eve has taught me, however, that I can opt for a different, though more complex and complicated way.
I am now choosing the path of Wisdom, trusting that the process of dying to the old way of succumbing to others’ expectations of me, will bring forth new patterns of living, of learning to be the authentic and whole person God means for me to be.