Sand snuggled up to my feet, covering them like a wet blanket. The frothy water rushed quickly over them, my feet sinking deeper into the soft ground as the wave receded. The sky burst with brilliant colors. It looked as if someone splattered pink and purple watercolors onto the clouds. Being outside of the everyday norm is a good antidote for soul fatigue. It reminds us that we are small and that God is so much greater than we could ever imagine.
I’ve never added to the ocean, painted the sunset, or carved out the infinite grains of sand. But here they are, all doing what they were made to do without my help. I am just a spectator, an embracer of the beauty around me, a builder of sandcastle kingdoms.
Illusions of Sandcastle Kingdoms
And yet, I often think of my role as reversed. Then I live as if I am the creator and originator of these great ideas. When I worry endlessly, thinking I am keeping things “under control” by ruminating on “what ifs,” I act as if I hold the world together. My self-sufficient tendencies try to convince me I can hold the waters of the world in the palm of my hand. But, in reality, the water just seeps through my fingers (Is. 40:12). Only God, the Water-Sender and Sand-Maker, can hold all things together (Col. 1:17). Quick glimpses of the grandeur of creation put me back in my rightful place—as the created, not the Creator.
I lifted my feet from their sunken position, kicked the weighted sand off, and journeyed down the shoreline. The breeze tangled my hair, beckoning me to breathe a little deeper and walk a little slower. Just up ahead, there was a family I had seen earlier in the day, packing up from building their sandcastle kingdom. From sunup to sundown, they had shoveled, dug deep, packed sand, and placed it in position. They carefully guarded their area against oblivious beach walkers.
But now, the tide was washing in as the moon pulled the water up to cover the shoreline like a heavy blanket for the night. Their hard work was washing away. As the sun continued to set, the waves progressively moved in and destroyed their little kingdom. In the morning, a new family would come and place beach towels down. They would set shovels in the dirt and start building their own kingdom right in the spot where the other one had washed away.
Sandcastles Wash Away
Some days I fear all I’m doing is building a sandcastle kingdom with my time and energy. I pack my bags each morning and head out to create. Many of you gather with me at the water’s edge, where the hopes and dreams of our hearts meet the day-to-day routines of our lives. We come out with our buckets, our shovels, and our tools, ready to work in the sand all around us.
Scientists estimate there are nearly seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion grains of sand on the earth. We gather scoopfuls of the sand to build sandcastles that the waves of the sea will quickly wash away. These very waves could consume us in a millisecond if the hand of the Lord did not tell it to stay put at the shoreline (Job 38:10-11, Ps. 104:9). This same sand makes up the bed of the ocean, sticks to your fingers after being wet by the salty waters, and gets into every nook and cranny of your bags and body. The sand is meant to remind you that this kingdom we build on earth is temporary.
Sand is only a small part of the big picture. But it dutifully points our eyes to the Creator, who knows the exact number of grains on earth, when scientists can only guesstimate. There’s a bigger, better kingdom that our Creator invites us to build. But first, we have to walk away from the comfort of the shoreline, carrying our crosses and following the Way of Jesus to the everlasting Kingdom of God.
Reflect and Respond:
What is keeping you from walking away from the comfort of the shoreline into the comforting embrace of Christ? Identify any fears that are holding you back and then write them down and cast them into the “ocean” so you can be free to walk with Christ.
Read and meditate on Isaiah 40:12-14. Think of a time you were in creation and were starkly aware of how small you are and how great God is. How can you add in moments of “awe” into your daily routine to continually remember how great God is?
Following the Way of the Kingdom,
On Thursday, in Part 2 of our short series on sandcastle kingdoms, Gretchen will take you to the solid foundation of the Kingdom of God. The third section of Gretchen’s new book, The Well-Watered Woman, is all about following the Way of Jesus. Preorder your copy before April 5 to get access to special bonus content.