You've watched it too. I know I'm not the first or only person who has observed it. But there is a lesson in it we both may have overlooked.
There are some children on a beach. They're playing at the edge of the water. Giggling. Building sandcastles. They seem so intent on the project. You get amused at how meticulous and careful they are with crumbly corners and tiny turrets. The looks on their faces as they screw their mouths around and stick out their tongues in earnest concentration are priceless.
Then a big wave starts to close in! But the kids don't panic. They do the strangest thing. They jump to their feet, scream with excitement, and watch the waves wash away their creations. There is no hysteria. No sadness. No bitterness. Even little children know the fate that awaits sandcastles. So they are neither shocked nor angry when the tide comes in.
You and I should be so wise. The stuff of this world is about as permanent as sandcastles on a beach. Yet we get so caught up in it, defensive over it, and depressed over the loss of it. But God didn't create you for this world. Your destiny is not bound up in physical stuff. So living to be a hundred years old is far less important than living well — even if for a relatively short time. Beautifying your body is not nearly so urgent as living with a pure heart before God.
Children know that their castles in the sand are brief joys destined to be taken away by an incoming tide. So they don't fret as the waves approach. They watch their creations get swept away without shedding tears.
Everything about this life is so transient. The incoming wave or our mortality is going to sweep it all away. Like sandcastles at the edge of the ocean, nothing we do for the sake of this world can survive. Only what we do here for eternity will last. Only the treasures we send ahead will escape corruption.
What would the loss of your job or business do to you? What if your house were to go up in smoke tonight? What if a pain sent you to your doctor and led to the discovery that you have but a few weeks to live? These things really do happen to people, you know. We are all vulnerable. We are all quite mortal. Everything about our existence here is about as enduring as sandcastles.
Life is God's gift. Revel in every good thing. Enjoy your castles in the sand. Just remember not to let yourself get unduly attached to them.
Dr. Rubel Shelly is Pastor of Woodmont Hills Church of Christ, Nashville and authors Fax of Life a weekly service. He is the author of more than 20 books, including several which have been translated into languages such as Korean, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Russian. To subscribe to Fax of Life, send email to faxOfLife@woodmont.org