Summer Short 8
When the Tides Roll In

Yesterday I watched as 2 young boys built a drip sandcastle too close to the water’s edge. In a short time, they had built quite a Disney-esque structure. Sadly, it was soon evident that they had not taken stock of the tides. They hadn’t mapped out their property location sufficiently because by the time I had gotten through 3 chapters of my book, each time they dripped more wet sand on top of their royal sand abode, the ocean tide would come in and claim the outer moat and wall. Soon, the whole infrastructure was in danger. Frantically, they tried to rebuild. They tried once, then twice but by the third breaker, the seawater had turned half of their drip castle into a smooth mound. This is where it got interesting. (In case you were wondering if it ever would.)

Hard as it was to admit, one of the boys figured out it was no good. Nope, they weren’t going to outpace or “outdrip” the ocean. So he moved up, further away from the water, abandoning the doomed castle and started again, yelling at his friend to join him. His friend, however, looked at their once glorious drip castle now turned into an unrecognizable mound of wet sand and burst into tears. Then he started kicking it in frustration. His mother appeared finally and tried to coax him into moving up the beach with his friend who was working on the foundation of a new castle, but the little boy wasn’t done mourning the loss of the old one yet. I heard him cry in between his sobs, “It’s not fair!”as he ran back to his towel, abandoning his friend and the new sandcastle.

So often what we want is like that sandcastle, temporary. And like that little boy, we stay lodged in an unhappiness created by holding on to something that never really belonged to us.

The first boy, obviously wise beyond his years, understood the laws of the natural world in which we have no choice but to live. Where the larger Universe, of which humankind is a small part, is a world of endless possibility and of endless cycles. Where sandcastles come and go. He understood what he could no longer use and simply moved up beach, going with the flow and happily started a new castle.

The second boy was having none of it. He was understandably angry at the injustice of it all. After all, he had worked hard on that drip castle, spending precious little boy time and energy on it. But he mistakenly presumed, like many of us, that fairness and justice was his right. That although fairness and justice are the beautiful ideals by which we, as humans, try to live with one another, that the greater cosmic dance of life does not understand what is fair. That it rains on the just and unjust alike. (Matthew 5:45)

If I’m being honest,  I saw myself more in that second boy than in the first who so easily understood that no one is promised a perfect drip castle. Like the second boy, I have cried that life is unfair for far longer than served me when my hard-earned sandcastles get washed away. But what I have learned is that these cries  come from the inescapable pain of living and while understandable, they have always kept me stuck in what hurts. That crying “unfair!” has delayed me from the rebuilding of a new sandcastle.

And as long as we see our ruined sandcastles as unfair, we will be a stuck on our towels, a captive to what might have been and lost to a new possibility.