As I grew up, I grew more and more reluctant to build sandcastles. “I’ll get sandy”, “they won’t last anyway”, “I’ll have ridiculously uneven tan lines”, “They take so long”……but in the end, despite my adolescent logic saying I ‘knew better’, my childish desire would win out and off I’d go. It’s no surprise – as a child I used to build major castles in the morning, and go to show people later in the day only to have them say “what castle? Where? I don’t see what you’re talking about.”
I’d start out with just a lump. I was reluctant, remember? Then the lump would take shape into an actual rectangle (the main castle), perhaps because I got on a creative roll, or perhaps just because I was way too old for just a lump to be acceptable and my friends were with me. I’d add a tower or two, maybe some designs on the walls or battlements on the top. I’d try to make my towers end in a point and I’d find a piece of seaweed or driftwood to stick in as a shell. Of course I’d build a moat – as deep as possible. And then the inevitable would happen – no matter how elaborate or large I’d built my castle, no matter how deep the moat, the tide would still rise and I’d watch my creation be swept away without a trace.
When I think of sin, I think of these sandcastles. We may start out reluctant, but in the end the desire wins out. Then we get swept along, either by peer pressure or just by ourselves. Our basic sin expands, gets fancy, gets more elaborate. Soon it’s part of our lifestyle – we’re fully embracing it and sticking a flag in the turret to claim it as ours.
We’ve all had these sandcastles within us. Maybe we still do. They are our imperfections, the things we harbor that God doesn’t like, the parts of ourselves that we hold on to, that we haven’t submitted to God yet and we don’t necessarily want to. Sandcastles can be pretty, after all. Granted, they can also be ugly and misshapen, but they’re still ours – cultivated and created by us. Maybe we fear His judgement, maybe our flag is staked in so deep we no longer know who we are without it. Maybe we just know that refinement often hurts. And our first instinct is to protect it. To protect ourselves. “Nothing to see here, Jesus!” We change the spiritual subject to more comfortable ground (“I read my Bible today, Jesus!” = “look at the whole rest of the pristine beach, Jesus!”) and meanwhile build our moats as deep as we can; we thicken the walls. We hunker down.
Maybe we realize that enough is enough, or maybe God tells us. But either way we have a moment where we’re done. We want out. And then our very human panic sets in as follows: But look how much we’ve built. Look how elaborate it is. Look how deep the moat around it is. Look how thick the walls are. We made an effort to protect it, even though we knew better. How can something that big just disappear? We’ll be living under the shadow of that thing for the rest of our natural lives and God will never look at us the same way again and we probably just forfeit our treasure in heaven and now our souls are going to be living in a spiritual cardboard box for all eternity.
Here’s the thing – the amazing, merciful thing about Jesus. He gives us grace. When we repent, and give our sin to Him, when we turn our hearts from that part of ourselves and our lives and give it to Him for His will to be done, that act of repentance lets the tide come in. And if you think for one second that sand can stand up to the power of the living water of Jesus Christ, get yourself to the nearest beach before high tide and give it a try yourself. No chance. While you’re there, you’ll also note how wood, rock and glass get broken down and smoothed over in time. So…sand? I repeat: no chance.
When you repent, you invite the waves that break down those fragile walls. Sure, it can hurt. Yes we have to leave the castle, to get displaced and sent to a new home Jesus has for us. Yes, a part of us has to stay behind in the castle to face destruction.
But you know what? When it’s done, it’s done. Every grain gets washed away, the moat gets filled back in. The very flags that marked it as yours disappear. You will look back, from your new house on the rock, and see pristine beach. With no trace of your self-made castle. Maybe you’ll tell Jesus about it someday, in hindsight or in fear of going back there. And Jesus will look out at the beach and say “what? Where? I don’t see what you’re talking about.”
Jesus took the hit for our sins already. He bled for them and suffered for them already. The wrath was poured out. Forgiveness was earned. The only reason the sins still exist is because we are engaging in them. So when we repent, when we turn from it in our heart of hearts, it leaves. Stricken from the books. When you let God take it away, it goes away. And all that’s left is the beautiful, pristine, pure beach.
So today I ask you readers to talk to God about your personal sandcastles. Let Him point them out to you, let Him guide you to a place of submission and repentance. Give them to Him, and let that tide wash over your heart. Cry the tears, delve deeply into the reasons behind it, whatever it takes. Then, go ahead enjoy your beach.
If any of you need prayer today, or just want to say hi, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.