Random Blog: Dealing with the Barnacles of Life
Romans 12: 2
Sigh...I noticed a new skin tag on my face recently. Another sign that I'm growing older. My former dermatologist used to call such features "barnacles." She said they were complicated to get rid of and not worth the expense and effort. So I accumulate barnacles on my skin.
When we think of barnacles, we think of the ocean crustaceans that attach to so many things of the sea, from poor whales to old-timey ships (the Phoenicians used to complain about them in the days of Christ). Scientists study barnacles to figure out how to emulate the fast-curing cement secreted by barnacles; it is among the most powerful glues in nature, with a tensile strength of 5,000 pounds per square inch and adhesive strength of 22-60 pounds per square inch. I don't know exactly what that means, but it has to rival the TV product that claims to lift a ton with a single drop of glue!
Even today, barnacles are a problem for ships, causing ships to drag and burn more fuel. The U.S. Navy estimates that barnacles cause as much as a 40 percent increase in fuel consumption, costing the Navy $180 million to $260 million each year. That's a lot of coin for a crustacean!
Life is full of barnacles that can weigh us down, especially the longer we're in this "sea of life." It's hard to get rid of the barnacles - trouble, stress, failure, and so on. They can strip us of our smiles and cause us to become numb in order to protect ourselves.
I like the analogy of Glenn Clark in his book, "The Soul's Sincere Desire," as he leverages the same myth I told in my book, "The Next Thing: A Christian Model for Dealing with Crisis in Personal Life." Clark references the battle between Hercules and the giant Antaeus, who was connected to his mother Gaea - the Earth - so that Hercules could only defeat Antaeus by holding the giant over his head, sapping him of the strength he gained from the earth. Clark writes:
We, who are not children of Earth but children of God, could learn much from the lesson of Antaeus. We too, whenever troubles cast us back upon the bosom of our Father, rise with renewed strength....Circumstances, infinitely small and trivial, may drag us away from God. Troubles, misfortunes, disappointments and handicaps, if they but throw us back upon God, if they merely give us opportunity of bringing into play our God-directed imagination and our heaven-blessed sense of humor, may become converted into marvelous good fortune. For trouble, if it merely turns us to God and hence renews our strength, ceases to be evil, and becomes good; it becomes the best thing that could possibly come to us, next to God himself.
In other words, those barnacles that attach themselves to us can be a blessing if we turn to God to resolve them.
The Apostle Paul knew how life could both corrupt us and beat us down. Thus, Paul wrote in Romans 12: 2:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, away from focusing on the barnacles of life, and toward a focus on God's will.
That jibes with one final fact I want to share about barnacles. Most species of barnacles reside in shallow water. Only a few survive on the deep sea floor. Perhaps a way to stay away from the effect of barnacles is to dive deeper. In this analogy, we can do the same, diving deeper into our spirituality and faith in order to reduce the effect of life's barnacles on us.
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