My mother died soon after I was born in Ecuador while my parents were SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) missionaries there. The incident was due to doctor error. My mother died after I was born became a monkey on my back.
The ape was the continual implication that my mother died so I could be born. My birth mother’s death was touted as the supreme sacrifice so I could be born and become a great preacher.
I grew up believing I had to do something great for god because of (what I was led to believe) the supreme sacrifice my mom paid for giving birth to me. My life was supposed to make my mother’s death mean something for the rest of my family. I was supposed to validate my mother’s death by becoming nothing less than a great preacher in the mold of Billy Graham.
The ape on my back got bigger month-by-month and year-by-year. It rode on my back like a wild monkey on a bicycle. My life felt like an ape cage filled with swinging, screaming monkeys.
I wanted to be free from the monkey zoo. Somewhere in the midst of monkeys hollering, I swore I heard Jesus calling me to be his preacher. I came to my wit’s end and decided to become a preacher on a Spring Sunday morning in 1998.
I had hoped that preaching and going to seminary would relieve me of the monkeys, but I was switching zoos and getting into a different cage, one that was filled with angry gorillas. These gorillas were happy to be angry at society, each other, and everybody looking in the cage.
The seminary I attended was a good cage for me to learn the ways of gorillas. It motivated me to question all gorilla doctrine and accept nothing simply because gorillas had been around for a long time. I jest, sort of.
Seminary was a good fit for me. Seminary developed my research skills, which made me unsatisfied with anybody else’s answers but my own. My research created more questions, which led to even more questions.
I learned to trust my answers only and not take someone else’s word as truth. I wanted to know the true meaning of life. I knew I was the only one who could find answers to the plethora of questions that religious tradition created in my mind. I tried asking learned theologians questions, but their answers were fraught with circular reasoning with no logical conclusions. I felt as though the monkeys were telling me to ask the gorillas, and the gorillas were sending me to ask the monkeys.
I was able to narrow my search for the meaning of my life down to one question: “Do I know who Jesus Christ is?” After many years of searching, my answer crystallized with all clarity one day, “Yes!”
The answer I discovered came down to one Koine Greek word for fish, “Ichthys,” which is pronounced, “Ick-thoos.” Ichthys is the Koine Greek word many used as an acrostic thousands of years ago that means, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.”
Ichthys is what I live by today; it reminds me that Jesus Christ beat death to death with his stick, the cross. It reminds me that Jesus Christ came back to life, which is significant because it means humanity lives beyond the grave. If Jesus lives, all humanity lives. If Jesus does not live then humanity is dead meat.
What I love about Ichthys is that a person knowing nothing about Jesus Christ is as just as alive as I am. What I really love is that even those who do not believe Christ ever existed are just as alive as the most religious person on earth. Belief or disbelief does not make Ichthys any more or less real, nor does it make people more or less alive. Ichthys is who makes all people alive by what he did on the cross and by his resurrection from the dead.
In conclusion, Ichthys knocked the monkey off my back, which freed me to be myself–an independent, responsible, moral agent. I may act like a monkey at times, but that is just me being myself, ooh, ooh, ooh. And that’s no bull!