The ichthus is an ancient secret sign of Christianity. Born of a need for protection during the Roman persecution in the early 1st Century, the ichthus was a way for Christians to identify one another. It had been a pagan fertility symbol, so it already existed in the world. Legend has it that when two Christians met on the road, one would draw half of it in the sand and the other would complete it to signify they were safe. The word ICHTHUS is an acrostic of the Greek words, Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter, i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.
Today the ichthus is used commercially to indicate to customers that a particular business is Christian owned. Folks have ichthuses on their business cards, beach cottages, cars, etc. May I just stop here and offer this PSA: if you have an ichthus on your vehicle, please do not cut me off on the highway and shoot me the bird. You are not being a positive witness to the Savior. Fish and birds should not be connected in that way. OK, back to the holy talk.
A friend and I were chatting on beach last week, and she shared a wonderful faith story with me. She was going through a particularly difficult time, and the hope and answers she sought were elusive and long in coming. She and her husband got away to the coast for some rest, and she walked the beach alone every morning, thinking, crying, praying, and hoping.
As she described this, I thought how similar we are. The reason I call these devotionals “At Water’s Edge” is because I have always found the peace I lacked at the beach. The rhythm of the waves, the bright reflection of the sun as it diamond-sparkles on the water, the sound of happy gulls overhead, have often brought the calm that I was lacking into my soul. I, too, flee to any water’s edge in times of stress, complexity, and chaos.
As she turned around one morning to go back to the hotel, she made her way down to the water’s edge where the waves were breaking gently on the shore so that she could rinse the sand off her feet. Her prayers that morning were those of surrender and submission. She was ready to give up her burden to God. The situation had become so heavy and worrisome, it was dominating her life and stealing her joy. It was in that moment that the wave at her feet receded, revealing this:
The sign of the fish. The sign of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the one who saves us. Nestled there in the sand among the footprints of the seagulls, another Christian had marked a symbol of hope, which she discovered just at the moment she had given hers up.
The moment of surrender is often exactly what God is waiting for. When we finally yield, he can finally come in. Holding tight to our burdens, trying feverishly and fervently to work it out, thinking we can actually control things that are truly beyond our control, are things God will wait out. It’s not until we loosen our grip that our hands become empty to receive his goodness.
What do you need to let go of today? What worrisome thing are you obsessing over to the point of distraction? How long have you been holding your breath, hoping for something to change? Breathe out. And breathe in the Son of God, the savior. Kneel before him and LET GO of that which you can’t control anyway. Lay that burden down at the foot of the cross, and look around for signs that God is active in your situation. You’ll find them at the water’s edge.
Philippians 4:6-7 New International Version (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.