Build a Better Castle

You all know that moment on the beach. That moment when you first run up to the sand that’s right where the waves come in and it’s soft and cool and you can squidge your toes in and just relax. I love the moment that follows, when you realize that sand you’re standing in is the perfect consistency for building a sand castle. So you begin to build one, knowing it will take quite a while…you have to mold the turrets just right, find the perfect shell to adorn the door, dig an expansive moat. But when you finally finish, you’re able to step back and just enjoy the work you’ve finished and all you want to do is stand by your castle proudly so everyone who walks by knows just who created the work of art. You might snap a photo, etch your name in the sand, tell your friends.

Then there’s those other moments I love about the beach. That moment when you run down to the water and you just let the waves lap around your feet. But do you know that moment when the wave recedes? Even though you’re standing still, the wave takes all the sand from around your feet and it looks and feels like you’re being sucked into the ocean with all the sand, almost as if the entire earth is moving from underneath of you. It’s dizzying at first, right?

You know what happens next, don’t you, after the waves recede. There’s that moment when you see the wave forming, and in one thought you realize what’s about to happen to everything you’ve just worked on, everything you created. You haphazardly construct a sandy wall a few feet in front of the castle, and the wave erodes it down to nothing. You throw your body in front of your castle, and put your arms up to block the oncoming wave, but the water crashes over you and seeps around you to turn your hard work to mushy lumps. Your last action, perhaps the most desperate one, is clawing at the leftover mounds of sand, trying in vain to keep the castle together. But it just slips through your fingers, doesn’t it? And it’s almost like everything you’ve spent your day working on – your faith life, friendships, your boyfriend or girlfriend, the reputation and place you had at school or work – is gone.

The worst moment is when you look where your castle used to stand, a small area that has been flattened by the water, made smooth, and it looks as if you never disturbed the sand in the first place. Some people take this as a sign for lamentation; after all, you put everything you had into constructing this perfect life, a perfect castle, and it’s gone.

But what those people don’t do is look up. If you ever feel the need to mourn the castle, the life, you once had, just look up. In front of you are miles and miles of smooth sand, waiting to be molded and formed. Your sand castle, the one you thought was your crowning glory, was barely a speck on the beach. And that sand that used to be a staircase, a window, a garden wall…it’s all still there. It’s just in a different form.

So just build another one. The waves are inevitable, you can’t stop change from coming. I am painfully reminded of the life I used to have, and every crash, rumble, and hum of the waves reminds me that there is more pain to come in the future. It won’t be easy to put up with them either, there’ll be cold ones, salty ones, painful ones.

But I know there’ll be warm ones and gentle ones, too, the kind that tickle your toes and bring up shiny shell gifts from the deep. Or the tantalizing ones that splash up around you, playfully tagging you and running, daring you to catch them.

Either way, they’re all inevitable. So just build a better castle than the last one. It’s all you can do, just keep building and keep improving. Use a different shell than the ‘perfect one’ you found earlier, you might find it suits the castle better. Build it with different people. Put it in a different place on the beach.

Just build another one.

Just build a better one.

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