There is no end to images people profess to see of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Mother or other religious figures that appear on everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to the creases of a drying sock.
For one New Smyrna Beach resident, the image of Jesus can be seen on a horseshoe crab. And when turned upside down, angels appear, along with other profiles that appear and change with time and different lighting patterns.
Cathy Rader, a local author, was given the shell May 6 by Justin Doyle, who works at Canaveral National Seashore.
Ms. Rader said Mr. Doyle had found some large shells after Hurricane Irma. He called her because she also is a photographer and he thought she might want to take pictures of sea turtle nests. They didn’t see any nests, but he did give her the shell he had found that was in the back of his truck.
“I put it on my front porch,” she said. “I was reading my devotional that morning on May 8. I have been playing the waiting game as I am publishing a book, ('Living the Dream, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.'). I am very excited about it (but) it has taken longer than I thought. I have been doing a lot of prayer and learning to wait on God and His timing.
“God spoke to me that morning and said, ‘see child, if you wait on Me, I will give you perfection’ and I immediately knew He meant wait, I will give you what you need in My time, not yours. I went by (the crab shell) and something caught my eye. There was a marking on the top of it and just for a second, I thought it looked like Jesus’ face and I kind of chuckled at that and thought, that’s pretty appropriate and sent it to a couple of my friends. One said, 'Jesus' and one said 'Jesus, but when you turn it around it looks like an angel.' It is changing a little bit every day.
“I kept looking at it and some of the dark markings seemed to fade. Some of my Christian friends immediately got chills and they just thought that is Jesus. Look at this face, look at that long beard. People saw different things, but the face was one thing they all saw, and the angel was something that almost all of them saw. Everyone felt really good about it. I look at it every day and I feel so blessed by it and it was a sign from God. When I first spotted it, I thought well maybe that’s a common marking. I did a Google search of images and none of them had any distinct markings at all.”
She added, “I think one of the reasons why He gave it to me was that (God) knew I was open to it. My faith has grown in the last four or five months. I think that He knows that I would share it. It’s not about me. I think it is an answered prayer.
“With all the things happening in the world right now it is nice to have something that is positive, and it is natural, it is from the sea,” she said. “It does possibly represent our faith in a higher power. It is a religious sign to many people even if they are not believers.”
Mr. Doyle, an Edgewater resident, said he finds horseshoe crab shells all the time.
“I just picked it up out of the lagoon, got it and put it in the back of my truck,” he said. “I don’t really look at them that close. Sometimes some get bleached out by the sun, but this one was kind of in the water. She sent me a picture and I can kind of see it, too, which you really can if you look at it. It is really pretty neat. It hasn’t been altered in any way.”
He added that none of the other ones he owns has those markings.
If nothing else there is some symbolism in that history shows Jesus as a fisherman and healer, while the blue blood of horseshoe crabs that live in the water is known for medicinal purposes.
However, Michael Brothers, manager of the Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet said “I don't know that I would make too much of this pattern. As the shell of a horseshoe crab dries, it shows a wide range of patterns. A fully dried specimen shows a wide range of light and dark intricate patterns.”
Fr. Chris Hoffmann, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in Port Orange, weighed in theologically on the crab’s unique markings.
“God can and does use many means to show us that we are not alone in the world,” Fr. Hoffman said. “He wants to comfort us in times of difficulty and inspire us to greatness despite our own sinfulness and weaknesses. Signs from God come in many different forms, too. When a person of faith prays for a sign, maybe God will choose to answer through a song on the radio that is heard. It could be a sign on a billboard. It could be through the words of a friend or a reading from scripture.
“Why couldn’t God choose to use a horseshoe crab shell to do the same,” he asked. “Now, a person that does not have faith will simply see a human head or maybe not see anything significant. But that is OK. God never forces us to believe in Him. He only invites us into a relationship with Him. We can say yes or no.”
Perhaps Jane Loewinger of Port Orange summed it up best.
“If somebody sees Jesus on this crab and believes that it is Jesus and it makes them feel better, whether it is Jesus or not, it doesn’t matter because they feel great and what is the harm in that?”