While vacationing recently, I noticed a boat moored to a pier. What caught my attention was its hull that was covered in barnacles. Now, I am no expert on barnacles or boats. But I suspect anyone who has owned a boat or lived near the water can confirm these determined little parasites are not good for a boat. They can be rather tenacious, dangerous, and destructive. Tenacious because once they are attached they are hard to get off. They are dangerous to anyone who has scraped or cut himself against their hard outer shell. They are destructive to the boat’s performance and, if left unaddressed, they can destroy the boat’s hull.

These stealthy creatures attach themselves firmly to the bottom of the boat – unnoticed and out of sight. As time passes, they accumulate and create a hard, encrusted, scratchy layer over the usually smooth hull. In doing so, they create drag on the boat’s efficiency because instead of the hull easily knifing through the water, it now has a rough covering that creates friction. This friction reduces the boat’s power while incrementally increasing the amount of fuel the boat burns to function normally.

Naturally, the wise course of action would be to dry dock the boat and remove the little suckers. However, that process is rather time consuming and painstakingly difficult. They must be manually scraped off or power-sprayed off. But either method can damage the boat’s hull. Any scrapes, dents, or holes must be repaired, sanded, and re-painted to bring the hull back to its intended smooth surface. What a lot of time and hard work for such uninvited and damaging pests.

Emotional Baggage & Barnacles

Isn’t emotional baggage just like those crazy barnacles? If you are like me, negative life events can attach themselves in an unnoticed manner and hide in the invisible places of my heart, mind, and soul. Once firmly in place, they create emotional friction and performance loss. I become irritable. Interaction with others becomes intolerant. Things that didn’t use to bother me now cause emotional meltdowns. I have less energy. Favorite activities no longer appeal to me. I withdraw and trust no one. I become bitter, resentful, and disillusioned. Sound familiar?

Unless you have lived a utopian life free from any negative events or experiences, the emotional “barnacles” of loves lost, heartbreak, rejection, betrayal, disappointments, bad choices on second and third chances, and others cling to the areas unseen by human eyes. Over time, they attach themselves quietly and invisibly. Initially, we may think we are unfazed by these events – after all, adults should be able to handle anything, right? But, sooner or later their effect becomes quite noticeable. Left unaddressed, they pose great danger to our emotional health and overall wellbeing, affecting our self image as well as our relationships with others. Sadly, they also affect our relationship and fellowship with God.

Just as the barnacle removal process for a boat takes time and great effort, addressing and removing our emotional “barnacles” does not happen overnight. After all, we are the product of the sum total of our experiences. When we experience severely negative events, they leave scars that do not quickly heal. So if you are looking for a quick fix or an overnight remedy, you may be sorely disappointed. Depending on the severity of the emotional trauma in our lives, we may need professional counseling to help uncover and remove our emotional “barnacles.”

Our Master Healer

God is the Master Healer. He knows hearts intimately (Hebrews 4:12), renews minds (Romans 12:2), and restores souls (Psalm 23:3). When we feel like a dry, barren desert inside, He promises to “pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground” (Isaiah 44:3). He heals broken hearts and binds up wounds (Psalm 147:3). Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3) yet His mission was to bring healing to the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18). He endured every possible emotional “barnacle.” For example, He:

  • Loves unconditionally – yet was rejected (John 1:11)
  • Died alone – even God the Father abandoned Him (Mark 15:34)
  • Chose Judas – who betrayed Him (Luke 22:48)
  • Handpicked His disciples – yet they all left Him (Matthew 26:56)

As fully human, Jesus empathizes with all our weakness and vulnerabilities. Thankfully, we can boldly approach Him for help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). We can take our “barnacles” to Him for removal and ask Him to restore the smooth finish to the “hull” of our lives.

By dry docking before Him in complete honesty, you allow Him to start removing your emotional barnacles. However, please realize it will not be a quick, painless process. When a broken bone heals incorrectly, the doctor re-breaks and resets that bone for full healing to occur. Similarly, God may ask that you relinquish some bitterness or resentment toward a previous betrayer. He may prompt you to forgive an ex-spouse who abandoned or rejected you. Or, He may encourage you to pray for someone who has broken your heart. Whatever He brings to mind, resolve it quickly. Yield it to Him fully. The more firmly the “barnacles” latch onto you, the harder God will have to scrape and the more repair work will be necessary.

Moving Beyond

The secret is in moving past what has happened to you and toward what God wants to do in and through you. Give Him access to identify and remove those things that are causing friction in your life. Allow Him to restore and refinish what is necessary to reinvigorate your life. Willingly partner with Him through the entire healing and transforming process. Soon you will be barnacle free and navigating the waves of life more smoothly and efficiently.

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