September 15, 2008

Fish Signs

A friend who moved this summer wrote me recently about her children’s new school. She said, “ I think [my younger one’s] teacher is a Christian. [My husband] saw a Colossians verse on her file cabinet. In the public schools, those are subtle signs.”

Her discovery reminded me of the early Christians, who worshipped in secret to avoid severe persecution. But they also wanted to encourage each other. So, according to The Story of the World, Volume 1, by Susan Wise Bauer, “they decided on a secret symbol. It looked like a fish. When a Christian met someone she didn’t know, she might draw a fish on a wall…[and if] the other person was a Christian, he would draw a fish, too. Then [they] knew…it was safe to talk to each other.”

If you’re a believer teaching in a public school, you may sometimes feel like an early Christian. Certainly, you don’t risk death for sharing your faith. But hostile work colleagues may ridicule you or attempt to undermine your authority with students. And, as happened to me, your job security may even be threatened. In my case, it was an empty threat, but it scared me all the same.

Nonetheless, I urge you to find ways to communicate your faith, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Tape one of your favorite verses to your desk. In so doing, you’ll find regular encouragement on hard days, and you’ll also bless Christian parents and students looking for a kindred spirit. If a student asks about your weekend, include church in your list of activities; you are allowed to do that! And such a simple statement will serve as notice to a child seeking a Christian mentor. Does a group of Christian students need a room to conduct an after-school meeting? Open your door, even if it means doing your next-day’s prep in the library or staying late to lock up. Jot down other ideas as they come to mind.

Why bother? Well, put yourself in another’s shoes. Does your child attend a public school? You want him to know Christian adults on campus. So be that person for someone else’s child. You pray for Christians with whom you can openly communicate among your kid’s teachers. Be the answer to another parent’s prayer.

In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul exhorts us to encourage one another in our shared faith. Create “fish signs” in your classroom to do just that.


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