Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
written by King Solomon
It was sitting there when we arrived at the beach last week, turrets and moats overlooking the surf.
It was a large sandcastle, complex in its design, shells decorating its cornices, whales made of sand circling the boundaries of its kingdom.
It was pretty spectacular.
It had been left by who ever had been occupying that plot of beach before we arrived.
We set up our site just adjacent to it.
Beach canopy. Beach chairs. Enormous cooler filled with fresh water and ice. Plaid bags of plastic shovels, a basket of brightly colored towels. Grass mats for the floor of the beach canopy. Large bags of food for the day, sandwich makings, chips, fruit, snacks. Bags of diapers and dry clothes. Within a few moments of our arrival, we had created our beach homestead, our marked territory for a day in the surf and sand.
And the sandcastle sat as landmark, a beacon of our beach squatting.
The day was glorious, tongues of tide licking the caramel sand. The seagulls pestered for bits of our picnic. The twins giggled and shrieked as the waves nibbled at their toes. Mike kicked a soccer ball with the kids, impromptu rules governing scoring and fouls. Sand, salt, snacks.
And the tide began to move in.
The sandcastle showed little affect at first. The water inched near its berms and moats, adding to its defenses. One of the boys stumbled through the interior of the sandcastle grounds in an attempt to retrieve the soccer ball. A turret collapsed in the aftermath. Another beachcomber walked over one of the sand whales.
The sun began to dip lower in the sky, the temperature cooling a bit. More sunscreen was applied. More wave riding was taken. We began to send the kids up to the showers. We took the cooler to the van. We rinsed the beach toys in the salt bath of the sea. We took down the canopy. We shampooed the sand out of our hair.
I came back over the dunes as the sun was setting. Our beach site was empty but for a few footprints. And the sandcastle had been reclaimed by the water.
It seemed a bit forlorn, to see this patch of beach we had claimed as ours for the day, to be empty again. It seemed a bit forlorn to see our neighbor sandcastle reduced back to its original grain. And I knew that in just a few more laps of the tide, it would look like we had not been there.
I wonder if King Solomon built sandcastles by the sea. He seems to know the feeling.
It goes so fast, this human experience thing. We move into a place, we build our structures. We create a way of life, we cut paths through the sand. We decorate the turrets of our lives with sea shells and we make sand whales to guard our borders. And it stands for a while, the sandy confection of our engineering and math and construction and sweat.
But eventually the sun sets and the tides of time come to again wash the beach we have occupied. We stand from a distant dune.
It's not what we built that day on the beach. It's not the little habitat we made for ourselves. It's not the sandcastle.
It's what we take with us from the sands of life.
We took from that day time as a family. We took from that day joy and laughter, amazement at God's creation, memories, tickles in our tummies from the waves and deeper fellowship as a family.
That's the real achievement. That's the real monument.
And as beautiful as sandcastles will be, I want to remember that they are designed to return to the sea. They are made to be enjoyed for a day and then to wash away.
I want to build something lasting. I want to build on the landscapes of the spirit, to scale the heights in towers of love and compassion. I want to decorate the turrets of the heart with mercy and faith.
I want to build something lasting.
Something that will come with me to an everlasting shore.