We Should Be Tugboats

A while back, I was challenged by Annie Downs to find my life’s thesis. (You can read more about having a life thesis in this other blog.) Through looking at what my thesis should be, I realized that I am kind of a tugboat. In a way, we are all strangely like tugboats. I didn’t actually know much about tugboats besides the fact that they pushed and pulled huge ships to where they needed to be in a harbor. But I started to Google them and as the daughter of an engineer, I found them to be quite fascinating. I went on a little YouTube scavenger hunt and found this five minute video about tugboats that the Discovery Channel put together. It is probably something only my two little nephews would enjoy watching, but God showed me some astounding connections between tugboats and being a Christian. These are three highlights:

1. Tugboats have most of their mass under the water (like an iceberg).


This kind of blows my mind. Tugboats could not work if they were designed any other way. They must be mostly under the water so that their hulls will have more friction in the water and therefore have more grip to dig in at one spot and move ships much bigger than them. Additionally, tugboats actually move deeper into the water when they start pushing or pulling.

In our role as followers of God, we will have friction. Friction could come from people, from circumstances, or from our own doubts. But as much as we despise the friction, it will help us to go deeper into the water and grip on to God’s truth for us or for the people around us. When we face difficulties, we should take that as a sign to turn to God.

I don’t know about you, but this is something that I have often neglected in the past. When my Christian walk started to get too difficult, I gave up in the face of friction. Instead, I must choose to go deeper into God’s Word, lean in to His calling, and dig through the lies of Satan to see God’s truth. Only then will I be able to appropriately serve God and guide others to Him.

2. Tugboats have incredible engine power.


For their size, tugboats are surprisingly strong. They have to use incredible power and force to move a ship up to ONE THOUSAND times its size. They push by getting the bow (front) of their hull on the side of a big ship’s hull and revving their engines forward which pushes the big ship sideways. They can also pull by attaching their winch and long ropes to a big ship and revving their engines in the direction the big ship needs to go.

Like tugboats, we may not look powerful, but God has made all Christians with surprising spiritual strength. We can bind demons or break addictions. (Matthew 18:18-20) When God gives us a calling, he endows us with the spiritual horsepower to change circumstances that are thousands of times bigger than us. He does not call us to the base of a big mountain that is ONE THOUSAND times our size us to stand in fear. He calls us to the base of mountains to make them MOVE. (Mark 11:22-24)

It’s tough to embrace this idea. To grasp that I have the power of THE Holy Spirit dwelling in me. To accept that I have the power to heal, cast out demons, and so much more because of God. There is power, omnipotent power, in God. I have to believe that. Not so that I can become some power-crazed, super-healing Christian who commands God to do my bidding. Instead, I must realize His power so that I can act like I serve a LIVING and ACTIVE God.

3. Tugboats work in teams.


Tugboats NEED other tugboats to efficiently and successfully move big ships, so they coordinate with each other to make the job happen. Sometimes three tugboats are needed for one job. The tugboats must position themselves in strategic locations, communicate with each other, know their roles, share their burden, and each work to pull a portion of the load so that they can achieve a common goal.

When we try to do everything on our own, we ignore people. When Christians try to be independent and self-reliant, we neglect God’s biblical model of community. God’s model of community is the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the twelve disciples of Jesus, Aaron and Hur holding Moses’ arms up, Ruth refusing to leave Naomi, and the Acts church. Over and over again, God shows us that we need to rely on other believers. God’s example of community and team work involves strategy, communication, individual roles, sharing burdens, and working together. When Christians rely on each other, they are successful for God’s kingdom because they make a bigger difference together.

Oops. I am not so great at this. I often see a need and think, “I can handle this on my own.” Often, it does not even cross my mind to ask another person to help me. I am too self-reliant at times. Yep, this sounds like one of those suave responses to the interview question, “What is your greatest weakness?” However, self-reliance really is a weakness. There is no place for individual reliance and the “I’ll do it by myself” attitude. Even Jesus surrounded Himself with disciples! I must transition to a point where I can rely on others.

So my final question for both of us: Are you a tugboat?

In your Christian walk, remember these simple lessons:

  1. If most of your spiritual mass is hidden in Christ, there will be friction against the darkness of the world. This is your chance to go deeper with God.
  2. You have been given incredible power by God. Use it.
  3. Walking with God is not a call to isolation but to community. Find other believers and rely on them to correct and encourage you.

Be a tugboat!



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