Dr. David Henderson
November 16, 2010
David Henderson

The word picture “Castles in the Sand” is often meant to be taken negatively. We glory in fleeting achievements susceptable to the slightest drizzle and the persistent lapping of the ocean’a tide. But “Castles in the Sand” has recently taken on new meaning for me as I found myself building my own sand castle on the coast of Charleston, SC. After the passing of a very close family member, my wife and I took our children away for a much needed vacation to get back to the basics of life: eating, resting, and enjoying the simple pleasures of God’s beautiful creation. One of my favorite memories of the trip was building sand castles with my kids. I thought about why that memory is so special to me and will stick in my mind for years to come. Here are several reasons:

1. I was creating, no matter how simply. When God made Adam and Eve, He told them to tend the Garden of Eden that He had created. He allowed them to participate in the process of tiling, planting, watering and harvesting. He gave them the responsibility of feeding the animals and keeping order. Did God “need” Adam and Eve to do this? Of course not. It was a privilege with which God blessed them.

Humans’ enjoyment of creation is an active process. Sure, there are times we sit back and soak in the beauty around us, but that is not all we are meant to do. We climb mountains, paint sunsets, sing about love, build with wood and stone and iron, study and discover truths hidden in nature. As image-bearers of God, we are engrained with a desire to create. To do so is to honor God’s purposes for our lives, no matter how insignificant the creation may seem.  

2. I accepted the futility of my work before I began. Let’s face it. Sitting on the beach for two hours building something that you know is going to get washed away, tramped underfoot, or (in the case of my kids) attacked by flying seashells doesn’t make much sense when compared to the cosmic workings of the eternal universe! I guess unconsciously I understood that going into it. Yet, I still did it. Why? Because the process was special. I had a blast running back and forth to the water’s edge with my children hot on my heels, packing sand into plastic moldings, tapping them out into shapes like walls and towers, digging motes and filling them with water. The best part was that how the actual castle looked didn’t really matter. The “meaning” of the experience came from being together and delighting in our work! Isn’t that ultimately what life is all about?

In our “purpose-driven” lives, we run the risk of forgetting what is really important. First, we can honor God in everything we do! (Sweeping floors, doing dishes, working in factors, pushing papers, editing digital software, reading a good novel) The key is to delight in the process and the people your position brings to you. You never know how God might use the insignificant things in your life to touch others for all of eternity. Second, without God, everything we do is meaningless (preaching to thousands, curing disease, conquering kingdoms, garnering fame, fortune, and power.) Just read the book of Ecclesiastes and you will know that we really might as well be building castles in the sand. Let God’s presence permiate every aspect of your life and you will never be without meaning!!

3. I left the final product behind me. As much fun as we had that day on the beach, it was soon time to leave. We had worked hard that afternoon and had a lot of fun in the process, but we couldn’t stand there forever admiring our accomplishments. Life doesn’t allow that. We had to move on. As we walked back to our beach house, I couldn’t help turning back and looking at our tiny little castle in the distance, dwarfed by the immense ocean waves behind it. At that moment, a father and his young daughter were strolling down the beach. The little girl, having discovered the castle in the sand, began to jump and cheer. She grabbed her father’s hand and began to pull him toward it. “Cooool!!” She exclaimed. “Daddy, isn’t it great?! Can we built one too?!” I smiled as they knelt down and began to dig. Maybe our castle had served a greater purpose after all!