Friday, 13 July 2012

Beset by barnacles


Lord, you made barnacles, and you had your reasons. I really don't know enough about barnacles to discuss it with you, but I want to thank you for them today as I have been thinking about barnacles. I realise that I have my own little raison d'ĂȘtre for the humble barnacle.

I'm sure you have others.

Pushing on. I am beset with barnacles. I think it might just be the human condition, but I have come to learn in the last few months that I have a particular problem with barnacles. Until very recently, I was feeling quite triumphant about the barnacle situation as well, as I have at last acknowledged my barnacle disorder and taken steps to rectify the situation. Sometimes with a degree of success, hence my feeling of increasing confidence.

A wise man told me a while ago that when something was worrying me, or upsetting me, or making me afraid, I should ask you, 'What is really happening in this situation?' and also, 'What am I believing that is not true?'

I started to do it, and I was amazed at how often I realised that my reaction to a problem was based on a  mistaken belief. Someone said something to me, I felt offended, I went away and thought about it and concluded that this person said what they'd said simply to upset me. Moreover, they have never thought much of me and were deliberately going out of their way to alienate me. It sounds sort of ridiculous when put like that. Actually, it sounds sort of ridiculous when I think about it objectively at all, but it's astonishing how many transactions like that I had going on. Some big, some small.

Some of them involved you (He doesn't love me); some involved my family (I am a terrible mother) and some involved random other interactions (They don't love me and think I'm a terrible mother). They might not involve anyone else at all (It's going to be a terrible day) or just might be my own insecurities talking (I can't get anything right).  Lies. Not true. Horrible, mean, depressing, discouraging lies. I have a habit of buying them wholesale.

They were like barnacles on a rock. Small and crusty. Sneaking up on me surreptitiously and clinging fast. I started picking them off the surface of the rock, which is me. I am the rock. I have to sit in the water because that's where I live, and because I am always in the water the barnacles come and cling to me. They seek me out because I'm a rock; a sitting target. I can't stop them heading for me, but I can stop them clinging. I don't need to be a rock covered in barnacles.

I realised that I needed to remove the barnacles because if I wasn't careful they'd be weighing me down. I understand that when you have an excess of barnacles on the hull of a boat the increased drag can cause the boat to use up far more energy than it needs to and it will go more slowly and be lower in the water.
Chipping 'em off
This is an analogy I can relate to. With all these things clinging on to me with their sharp little hooks (yes, I know barnacles don't have hooks but you get my drift) I was certainly lower in the water and much less likely to be making much progress let alone a bow wave. Hard to move much at all when you're weighed down with excess baggage.

What am I believing that's not true?

So I started pulling off the barnacles and discarding them. People are generally not out to get me. People on the whole don't tend to think about me so much that they make judgements about who I am based on what I'm wearing or where I sit in church. I make mistakes, but all is not lost.

I could see more and more rock. The barnacles still settle and some of them dig in for the long haul but I'm quicker at spotting what they are and trying to pull them off before I need to go into dry dock to have them surgically removed. I know I'm mixing my metaphors. It's fun.

But then it happened. You know exactly when it happened, Lord. I'm still not completely sure what to do with it, but you showed me something for a fleeting second and a whole new Thing began.

What if my rock is actually a barnacle? The big rock on which all the barnacles were sitting. The thing with the surfaces worn smooth from the wind and waves, the huge, sturdy thing that doesn't move, that feels like it's been there forever. What if it's not real? What if it's just another enormous barnacle?

My rock is my life. All the things that I've taken for granted. The bits of me that I just accept as unchangeable. Things that I think I know about me; things that have been there for so long that I can't remember a time when they weren't there. Me. Essence of me.

In my case, I've assumed that I am not very confident. I'm just not. Some people are, I'm not. Years ago I learned that people didn't realise how little confidence I had; I tend not to show it much. That's alright. I've learned that if people don't see how little of me there is inside, that's ok. I've managed to get by. My rock is also made up of an apologetic feeling. I assume that if I meet new people they won't particularly like me. Why would they? If someone new comes to church I won't visit them with a casserole; why on earth would they want me at their door? It is far too presumptuous to assume that they'd want to be befriended by me. Other people are much more likely to be welcome. If someone does something nice for me, I am so, so grateful. I am amazed at their generosity; that they would go out of their way for me. Why would they do that? Oh thankyou, thankyou so much. I appreciate it more than you can know. Thankyou again. You're brilliant, you know. I'm so grateful.

It's low self-esteem, it's an inferiority complex, it's a fearful attitude, it's a fear of failure, it's this and it's that and it's made up of a load of rubbish and I know intellectually that it can't be true... sigh. I know from what I know about you that you want so much more for me.

Is my rock not a rock, but a barnacle after all?  Could all that stuff somehow be picked off along with all the day to day barnacles?  Have I built my adult life on something that isn't real? Or needn't be real?

I can't just chip off this barnacle. I can't do it. This rock is too big and too heavy and I can't get my arms around it, let alone lift it, even with a crowbar. You're going to have to do it, Father. It's a job too big for me.

You know what worries me more than anything?  I don't know what's left if this rock/barnacle is tossed away into the sea the same way as all the other little tiny barnacles. If I'm not a rock sitting quietly at the shoreline attracting barnacles, what am I?  What is there underneath the insecurity and fearfulness and inadequacy?

What's left?

This is how far I've got, Father God. I'd love to finish this off with a flourish of freedom and triumph but the truth is that I'm still wondering about this rock. I'm still chipping off the barnacles and throwing them away while occasionally tapping at the rock itself and wondering.

It feels like a rock. Looks like one. It looks like me. But you told me that I don't have to live feeling like this. You've told me that I am immensely valuable. That I am loved by my Creator, who chose me because he knew me and loved me before the world began. That I am unique and special and that I should be flying, not limping. Why would I live a half-life when I can have live life to the full?

So. Take my rock, Lord. Do whatever needs to be done. I don't know what shape that might take; I'm not much keen on it being painful. I don't know what lies underneath the rock, or what sort of thing I am if I'm not a rock. I hear you telling me I'm beautiful and full of potential but I can't see it. If I'm going to feel exposed and vulnerable then I know that you'll be there protecting me. I know that you love me far too much to uproot my rock without preparing what's underneath to see the sunlight for perhaps the first time.

I don't have the answers, but I trust you. I trust your timing and your judgement and I trust that you love me. I trust you to be gentle.

I want to be barnacle free.

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