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Learning from Sand Castles

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Spring weather shifts our thinking: from boots to sandals, sweaters to shorts, and from building snowmen to creating sand castles. Even though sand castles don’t last long, they can make an impression on those around us ”“ our own family, the group of teens under the next beach umbrella, the older women chatting and laughing together in their beach chairs. Our lives are like that, even referred to in James 4:14 as “a mist that is appears for a little while and then vanishes.” But in our years here on Earth, what are we building? I’ve been reading about sand and sand castles this week and learning about what we each build every day.

Each grain of sand is unique and they each look amazingly different from one another, just like us. God created billions of people to fill this earth, but He didn’t repeat Himself, not even once. On its own, one grain of sand can’t do much. But fitted together with thousands and millions of others, sand can be used to create something truly beautiful.

Sand is an excellent medium for sculpting, but only if it’s the right consistency. The key is adding water. The science behind mixing water and sand is “absorbing” (pun intended). This is how NASA describes the physics of sand: 

“Damp sand sticks together because water forms little grain-to-grain bridges. Surface tension acts like rubber bands”¦ between the grains. Adding water to damp sand fills spaces between the grains.”

Think of us as grains of sand, and Christ ”“ our source of Living Water ”“ builds those grain-to-grain bridges, filling the spaces between us, holding us tightly together as if by rubber bands. What a picture of Christ and His love, binding us in unity, so that He can build something greater.

Water in the Word

How do we add that refreshing, unity-building Water into our lives? By spending regular, purposeful time in His Word.

“Christ did this so He could set the church apart for Himself. He made it clean by the washing of water with the Word.”—Ephesians 5:26

When I start the day spending time with the Lord, reading His Word, listening for His voice, the rest of the day flows more easily. I have more patience with little annoyances, and I focus more on the important, not the urgent. Those days feel like sand that you can build with, add to a portion that was built previously. Because those days are dipped in the living water of God’s Spirit, they pack together with other days where I have let Him lead, connected with His people, moved a step closer to the purpose He has for me. I don’t see the whole picture yet, but each day can have a greater purpose when washed with His Word, than if I just let it pass through my fingers like dry sand.

Together We Are Strong

When we all are bound together in unity, molded in His purpose for each one of us, we can have greater impact on the world around us. Too often, believers become discouraged at how our fallen world is rejecting God’s laws and feel unable to make an impact. Of course it’s difficult for one person, one grain of sand as it were, to be noticed. But when we are joined together, building one another up and allowing God to shape and mold us, our ability to be seen and heard and to lead those around us grows substantially.

In my position at the University of Northwestern — St. Paul, I am blessed to see believers working and learning together at all stages of life. Young students bursting with energy and enthusiasm are eager to take their faith out to the workplace and engage others with God’s love and truth. Older adult students returning to complete a degree or gain a master’s degree seek to further their understanding and position themselves for greater leadership roles in their businesses and communities. Most are juggling school with work and family responsibilities, but they are drawn to God’s call on their lives to step into leadership—whatever that might mean to them personally—and they want to prepare for that.

Let’s not allow our age or current circumstances to limit how God might use us to lead. We know that God used people of all ages for His divine purposes. Noah was 500 when God tapped him to build an ark, while Josiah became king at age 8 and turned the nation of Judah back to worshiping the one true God. Whatever your years or fears, God has a unique purpose for you and is thinking about you today.

“How precious are your thoughts concerning me, O God! How vast in number they are! If I try to count them, there would be more of them than there are grains of sand.”

Psalm 139:17-18

Spend time with Him, speaking and listening, reading His Word, soaking in the Living Water. The Lord desires to refresh you and guide you to fulfill His purposes that He had planned for you long ago. Get ready for what He may choose to build in and through you: a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.