I hadn’t been to the beach for awhile, so I just couldn’t pass up the chance to breathe in a little ocean air over Thanksgiving break while we were visiting family who live near the coast. Even just a little time at the beach was better than nothing, for sure. My niece was ‘bored’, so she came with me and I’m so glad she did.We walked and talked and saw lots of people there who seemed to be getting their ocean air fix as well. There were couples walking hand in hand. There were people walking their dogs. There were some teenagers in the waves swimming, and older folks just walking barefoot in the sand and dipping their toes in the ocean every once in a while like yours truly. But then, I saw these two boys and I just had to smile.
It brought me back to a place in time when my kids were little and would do much the same thing.These two boys with rake and shovel in hand, were digging as fast as their little bodies would go. They didn’t talk much at all, just kept their noses down and worked and worked to accomplish the goal that they had set. To be honest, I’m not sure what that goal was, but the determination in their little bodies and faces sure made it apparent that they knew what the goal was and that’s what mattered! (I’m thinking it was probably trenches and ponds and dams…I think those are sometimes more fun than castles anyway…)
Now to the rational mind, this kind of thing was just a lesson in futility. I mean, what can two boys with two shovels and determination do to make a difference with the waves and the wind? I mean, obviously whatever they did would disappear and be swallowed up in the waves when the tide came in, right?
Of course it would. I mean, everyone knows that the things we build in the sand will often not last for hours, let alone a day.
But it seems that young boys often have a good grasp of what we adults can often forget. Working side by side with a common goal is fun. Work and play can be interchangeable. Making a difference in our little area is making a difference period. Trenches and ponds and castles of sand can be rebuilt again, and again, and again. Failure helps us think critically. Challenges help us grow. The ocean comes in just one wave at a time, and fills the gaps one wave at a time. Ocean water can be guided by little shovels. That’s some pretty powerful stuff for two little boys against the landscape of a vast ocean.
So much of our work, our adult ‘stuff’, our so-very-important projects, well, aren’t they oftentimes a bit like castles in the sand? They matter, they are appreciated for awhile, but then, they disappear into the landscape as if they were never even there, like sand castles swallowed up in a wave. Life is so very full of loss. It just is. Relational, Material, Financial, Professional, Physical, Medical,….we all have our own areas where we can point to our losses…when what we worked towards or for, is all of a sudden, or gradually, swallowed up till there’s very little recognition left. Castles built. Castles lost.
But here’s a little something these boys reminded me of… the beauty of the process is as significant (or maybe even more significant) than the accomplishment of the product. It just is. For oftentimes, the stuff that outlasts winds and waves is the stuff that no one can see, the “stuff” that makes us who we are, the relational, untouchable “stuff” that no one can take away.
Our lives leave traces behind. Legacies. Not just when we die. When we live. Day by day, moment by moment, we matter. (Way more than stuff). These little boys I didn’t even know inspired me. (Who knows, maybe they’ll even inspire you!) And no matter what material “products” we attain or lose, who we are in the use (or misuse) of those acquisitions is what makes the difference. How we impact others…. what light we shine or don’t shine…that’s where the impact lies. And it’s often in the processes, the hard day in, day out work, that we grow and change and inspire without even realizing it.I’m pretty certain those hardworking little fellows didn’t even realize I was there…let alone that their little hearts were encouraging mine. The insignificant little things are often the significant big things. Hopefully so.
Those little boys were most likely not cognizant of the fact that their little heart and minds and hearts were so growing in the process of digging the trenches. They were focused on the goal, the task, the team effort. But that’s the beauty of working hard…so often it’s not about what we work for, but about the amazing growth that occurs during the process that makes all the difference in how we do or do not impact those around us.
So, here’s to so enjoying our castles in the sand… working for them, using them, sharing them, admiring them, but also, letting go of them when times of loss may come. Because castles in the sand? They are temporary…but those things we can’t see…the intangibles of who we are, what we are, who God is, and what we do for Him…that, THAT is what lasts and what no one can take away.
One of my all time favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. It says, “For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles.So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” A dear friend of mine and I have reminded each other of this verse time and time again. Through day to day struggles. Through marital issues. Through births and raising of children. Through relational challenges. Through financial strain. Through the death of her child (yes, even that…) Through, through, through…one thing remains. Through castles built. Through castles lost. Through castles restored.
We can hope in the midst of any of those stages because we have faith in the Unseen God who is and loves and redeems.
We can press on with our little rakes and shovels with faith and tenacity and hope because we believe He IS. The work He does in our lives is about so much more than end results like castles. His work in our lives is about knowing and serving Him in the midst of what we face each day with determined and child like faith.
Keep pressing on, friend. Even when you can’t see the results, maybe there’s something more than ‘results’ going on. Just a reminder inspired by two hardworking and determined boys, a rake and a shovel, and a sea of sand and waves.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”