Culture today tells us to “be who you’re meant to be” and to “find your true identity.” So often, we succumb to the lie that we do not have the ability to accomplish anything until we “know who we are.” Comics, novels, and even movie franchises are based solely around characters searching for true meaning and purpose in their life. Surrounded by a culture that constantly tells us that we need to somehow “find ourselves,” we as Christians can often succumb to the lie that our identity in Christ is not enough–that we need something more in order to make a difference. As I write this post today, I hope not only to remind you that as a Christian, we are called to find our identity in Christ alone, not in some material concept or possession, but also that when we trust completely in God, he will use us to bring about his purpose for his glory. There is, perhaps, nothing more encouraging than hearing the story of one who unconditionally gave her life to God’s plan and purpose. Though Lady Jane Grey certainly had her faults, her life and words stand as an incredible example of God’s ability to work all things together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Lady Jane Grey grew up in the age of Henry the VIII, the infamous king of England with six wives. Grey’s father, Charles Brandon, was “chummy” with Henry VIII, and eventually their close friendship led to Brandon’s position as the first Duke of Suffolk. Essentially, Henry created a position in the royal family just for Brandon. Henry was so friendly towards Brandon that he changed his will and testament in order that, supposing Henry VIII’s children died without heirs, the Suffolk children would inherit the throne.
However, the one factor that literally changed the game for the royal line was the constant battle between the Protestants and the Catholics. The Church of England, protestant in nature, had come about when the Pope refused to annul the marriage of Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Since that, the debate between the Church of England and the Catholic Church extended so much farther than simple theological debate. The fights were political, personal, vicious, and life-threatening. Henry VIII’s first heir and son, Edward, was also a devout protestant. After his father’s death, Edward’s only major goal as king of England was to ensure that Catholicism would not return as the only legal religion of England through the rule of his sister Mary. Thus, he declared Mary an illegitimate child, removing her as an heir to the throne, and replacing her place with Lady Jane Grey, the protestant daughter of Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk. By rule of consistency, Edward also declared his older sister Elizabeth illegitimate, though she was protestant. These actions thereby left Lady Jane Grey as the next heir in line for the throne.
On July 10th, 1553, Jane Grey reluctantly ascended as Queen of England. Nine short days later, Mary, brother of Edward and daughter of Henry VIII, gathered an army to oppose the 15 year old Jane Grey. In response, Jane resigned the throne to Mary. A good bit of family political drama contributed to the result of Jane’s rule, but needless to say, Jane’s deposition was messy, dramatic, expensive, and overall painful. On February 7th, 1554, Mary Tudor signed the document that condemned the young Jane Grey to execution. Five days later, Jane died as the “Nine-Days-Queen.”
In the midst of the darkness, fully knowing her fate, the seventeen year old Jane Grey remained strong and dependent on her faith. A few days before her death, she wrote to her sister: “Live to die, that by death you may enter into eternal life, and then enjoy the life that Christ has gained for you by His death. Don’t think that just because you are now young your life will be long, because young and old as God wills.” While the faith of her family members could hardly be considered as faith at all, Jane truly believed in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with her whole heart. Christianity meant so much more to her than petty political arguments. On the day of her execution, she addressed those around her by saying, “I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God, in the blood of his only Son Jesus Christ.” She recited Psalm 51, laid down her head, and breathed her last. Her nine-day rule made little impact on the policies and laws governing England. But in the long run, her participation and faithfulness made a huge impact on the persistence of Christianity and Protestantism in England and Europe as a whole. Though she had just a short time, she truly made the most of the opportunity she had at hand.
Jane Grey faced her death head on, without fear, only because of her faith and trust in God the Father. She founded every part of her identity in his truth and his love. Fully, she believed in the Scriptures that she so carefully studied, and she shared her passion and faith in Christ with all who would listen to her. Jane Grey had seventeen years on earth and only nine days doing what culture would call “her purpose.” Yet, even in such hard circumstances, Jane faced life head on, not searching for any special purpose or yearning every day for the day that she would be “Queen of England.” Rather, she lived humbly, following the call to serve as Queen only because it was her duty, perhaps even knowing that it would lead to her death. Can we as Christians strive to be as fearless and as grounded as Jane Grey? Or will we live our lives searching for a purpose we may never find?
Haley Moore is a TPS alumna and the former writer, Sports, and Senior Editor of Clay Magazine, then known as The Cracked Pot. She is now a Freshman at Anderson University studying Nursing with minors in Human Development and Family Studies.