How Barnacles Illustrate Our Need to Read God’s Word


Have you ever noticed barnacles encrusting the bottom of boats? These creatures are not only amazing, but they help us to see an important truth. Many people mistake barnacles as a type of mollusk, similar to clams or oysters. But in reality, they are arthropods, like crabs or lobsters. They have an exoskeleton, which is like a skeleton on the outside of the body instead of inside. Sea barnacles can be found nearly everywhere in the ocean from the deep sea to coastal areas. barnacles

When we see them, we are looking at their adult stage, which is a non-mobile stage. Young barnacles actually can swim around and float along with the ocean currents. When they are ready to attach themselves to a hard surface, they look for other barnacles of the same species. That is a good sign that the location is a safe one with plenty of food. You can find barnacles attached to rocks, clams, whales, and even boats. Once attached, they are there for good; they cannot unglue themselves to move elsewhere. That is because they use a unique permanent cement, released from a gland at the base of their antennae. Well, that means, technically, barnacles glue their heads to a surface and hang upside down!

In order to feed, they extend their feathery legs out of their exoskeleton to capture floating plankton.

Boats are actually great locations for barnacles. That’s because they provide great shelter and move around to lots of locations, increasing the chances that the barnacles will come in contact with more food. Of course, for boat owners, they can be a problem. If not regularly removed, barnacles often encrust the hull of a boat so badly that they hide its color and its shape -- in some cases you cannot even discern the original shape of the boat.

Their presence slows a boat down, creating drag. That causes a boat to have difficulty moving along in the water. It requires greater energy to propel itself forward and it cannot move smoothly, resulting in a bumpier ride.

Think about that. Boats are designed to move smoothly through the water, creating very little disturbance in its surface as they sail. But when they are carrying a population of barnacles, they have much more difficulty. They move more slowly. They require more energy to go forward. They may not even resemble their original sleek shape anymore.

The extra “baggage” of barnacles creates a great deal of problems.

In my life, I have had to fight off barnacle baggage as well. What do I mean by that? Well, as Christians, we are made pure; our sins are forgiven and we are made clean!

1Jn 1.7

We are like that smooth hull of a boat, gliding through life, unencumbered by things weighing us down. That doesn’t mean life is always easy, but it DOES mean we travel through it with peace and joyfulness. But I often have to struggle with “barnacles” that want to attach to me.

Fear. Feeling unworthy. Holding on to unresolved issues. Lack of patience.

All of these are spiritual struggles I can allow to hold me down. They change my appearance and make my countenance less recognizable. The more that attach, the easier it is for additional baggage to cling to me. You see, if I am fearful, then I chastise myself for feeling that way. I begin to think I am unworthy in God’s eyes. Then I remember other times where I did this and relive them in my mind as “proof.” I chew on those past mistakes and then get frustrated with myself.

Can you see how letting one tiny barnacle into my life makes it easier for more and more to attach? How do I stop this onslaught?

Well, none of these are new issues. God has addressed each of these and more in his word so that we don’t have to let those issues hang on to us and affect everything we do in life.

Eccl. 1.9

What are some of your “barnacles” that are making life difficult to live? It doesn’t matter what they are, because God has addressed them in his word for YOU. You see, there is nothing new under the sun. There is no barnacle that Jesus has not covered; there is no issue that is bigger than our Lord.

Seek his word to find what he says about the things weighing you down in your life. Know that you are valued. Know that He is your strength. KNOW you are WORTHWHILE. The God of heaven and Earth has chosen YOU to be his. He knew you from before you were born and he chose you! He will be your strength and is able to help you “scrape” off those things that are clinging to you, holding you down.

Yes, barnacles are amazing creatures. But spiritual barnacles are things we need to deal with daily, preventing them from taking hold of us and slowing us down. How do we keep them from attaching? We need to know the truth of God’s word, daily taking it into our minds and hearts. That provides a kind of non-stick spiritual surface around us, so we can withstand any struggles that come our way.