I build my sand castles way too close to the water.
Last year on a service trip to Jamaica we had a day off to go to the beach and I did exactly that.
No bucket. No shovel. Just elbow grease and way too much time in the sun without re-applying sunscreen.
I constructed two towers, four walls, a big door, and a moat.
After an hour or so of work, ten minutes later it was gone.
The moat was overrun and I was left with only the memory of what once was. Now, when I say it was close to the water, I mean it was dangerously close.
It’s almost as if building it away from the water, although much more sustainable, would be too safe.
I live my life the same way.
If you know me well, chances are you’ve seen me cry. Or at least get a little misty.
Why do my eyes sweat easily? Not sure. Embarrassing? 100% But I like to think it’s how God communicates with me.
Years ago when reading about St. Ignatius of Loyola I learned he was often moved to tears at the times he felt closest to God. When I was in Spain and Italy this summer visiting places that were significant to his development, at times, I was full-on waterworks. Thinking about what he experienced and how important his spirituality has been to my life caused me to be overwhelmed, not with sadness but tears of joy. The type of crying that happens when a good friend hugs you in a time of need.
A feeling of relief or refuge from the storm.
Some might hear this and think, “That’s not God, that’s just being overly emotional.”
They wouldn’t be wrong.
We’re all entitled to our own opinions and we all choose how we want to navigate life. Some are better at keeping themselves together and prefer to be emotional in private or in other ways.
Some of us like to build our sand castles far away from harm, with more stability, in places that allow space and time for detailing and picture-taking. This can lead to beautiful and important creations.
Maybe one day I will get to that point. For now, I’m going to stick with the thrill of the occasional wave flooding the moat and overrunning the northwest wall. Partly because I like the challenge, but also because I need a resilient spirit if I want to continue to grow.
I’ve learned there’s no shame in growing and rebuilding.
One of the biggest traps I fall into is the belief that I can control the outcome of every situation. When planning for an event, my to-do lists have to-do lists. But, even with foresight and attention to detail, inevitably something goes awry. Because I’m often very close to situations and personally invest my attention – this can weigh heavily on me.
I’ll never forget being in my classroom during my first year of teaching, crying because a lesson I spent hours planning turned out to be a total miss.
Or when I fell to my knees when I realized I could no longer drink like my friends, which in my case, meant quitting altogether.
Looking back, even if I was upset at the time, I see them now as tears of joy.
New life embraced.
In the end, like my sand castles, life is temporary.
Happiness, stability, and comfort can be washed away at any point.
I’m not fazed. In vain or not, I’m still down by the water, building the bridge over the moat and thinking about adding a lookout tower in the southeast corner.