Monday, March 20, 2006

Tug Boats and Barges

I’m a fan of tug boats. I’ve always admired them somewhat, but it’s become a genuine passion of mine since moving to the Northwest. This morning I’m encouraged as I see another one steadily plying it’s way through the waters of the Sound, dutifully and reliably dragging in its wake a well used, well rusted barge overflowing with whatever barges tend to overflow with. I don’t hold the same admiration for barges. In fact, I don’t really appreciate them at all. If I ever won the lottery, one of the first selfish items that I’d purchase would be a tug boat. The main problem with this plan is that I don’t play the lottery, but that’s another story for another time. I’ve often considered taking a sabbatical from the pastoral thing for a few months of real work on a tug. My biggest obstacle (apart from testing my wife’s patience) would be that I would have no idea what I was doing on a tug. I’d probably not be of much use. However, if I bought it, I’d own it and then who cares how much I’d know about running it. I’d hire people who knew what they’re doing and I’d just ride along. It seems to work for professional sports teams, so why not? Anyway, my admiration for the tug passing by on the waves and my disdain for the barge behind it got me to wondering. Why one and not the other? I mean, cosmetically the choice is obvious. Even the most barnacle encrusted, oil stained, tire draped tug is more attractive than any new barge freshly painted from the shipyards. It must be beneath the surface I think. It seems like I’m attracted to the function and purpose of the tug and I’m not that impressed with either for the barge. One of the tug boats functions is to “tug” a load of whatever on a barge from port “A” to port “B”. It has to “tug” because the barge does not run on its own power. It is hopelessly stationary without the pulling power of the tug. It’s a pile of whatever, hopelessly stationary. I guess maybe that it sounds like the lives of some people I encounter. They are overflowing with the “whatever” stuff of life and they seem unable to move. Whenever I’m tired and selfishly considering myself in the world, I harbor bad feelings toward barges. They are draining. They are tiring. They are a load. Why can’t they just get on with their own lives, make their own constructive choices? Then, on the other hand, there are those people in the world who are tug boats, whose mission in life is to pull or push others towards a life of productivity. I admire them. In my self righteous state I can even imagine myself as one of them, dutifully dragging lives from point “A” to point “B”. It’s a tiring life, but someone has to lead it I think to myself. Another function of a tug is to guide ships, often times much larger than themselves, into port. These are ships that in close quarters are too powerful for their own good, so the tug boat captain will take over and skillfully nudge and direct the big ship where it needs to be. Some people are like that. They are big ships in a small space. Either, their ego is big, their material means too big, or their baggage may be too big. They are too big for their own good. They need a tug into reality and healthy balance. It’s important to know though that I believe that everyone at one time or another in their life can and will be either a tug or a barge. I know that I’ve been both. I can get pretty self absorbed thinking that I’m the tug to the world, and then…I can remember, fairly painfully, those periods of life when I was a barge. I’ve had my share of “whatever” being pulled and pushed on the power of an encouraging tug. They create balance, tugs and barges. Relationships need balance. It’s the calling of all of us at one time or another to pull not only our own weight, but also that of someone else in need. It is also healthy for us, every once in awhile, to learn when to just float on the energy, encouragement and support of another who has our best interest in mind. As I finish this out, I am looking out on the waves, watching as a lone tug glides across the scattered whitecaps. I bet he’s looking for another barge that needs to be delivered.