For I am the LORD your God, who churns up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD Almighty is his name.
It was a perfect beach day. The sun was warming our skin just enough to make us feel like melted butter dripping down corn on the cob. The cool ocean wind unfurled our hair, now raised flags wildly whipping in the salty air. Seagulls soared against the blue canvas, screeching out their melancholy song to remind us that we were buffeted from the chaos of the civilized world. I closed my eyes and sank deeper into my relaxing bath of sand. And then the screaming began. No, it wasn’t a swimmer in jeopardy, calling out desperate pleas for help to the shore. It was my children.
All of that stuff at the beginning was a romantic notion of the beach, which I still cling to while trying to adjust to bringing three small children to my former peaceful sanctuary. I used to have just a few items to bring with me: towel, sunscreen, books, and water bottle. Once you have kids, it would be easier if you could just transfer the entire beach to your backyard. After packing shovels, buckets, sunglasses, towels, sweatshirts, snacks, and other essentials, I think we actually bring more to the beach than we leave at home. But we somehow make up for that by bringing half of the beach home and tracking it through the house. God told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore,  and if you need a visual aid, simply come look at our floors during the summertime.
I used to be able to sleep on the beach for hours, only waking up when the tide came in and tickled my feet with its curled fingers. Now that I’m forced to stay awake, I’ve noticed that the beach provides us with many biblical lessons. Besides, who has time to relax on the beach when there are sandcastles to build? Building a sandcastle is the best way to understand the words of Jesus as he described the building techniques of the wise man and the foolish man in the gospel of Matthew.
(24) “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
(25) The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
(26) But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
(27) The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Even the best sandcastle in the world will eventually be demolished by the rising tide. Younger children especially are not amused when their hard work of building a sandcastle goes sailing out to sea. They rant and rave, often at the ocean, as though its waves were evil thieves who snuck into shore, clutched the castles with soggy arms, and stole away into the abyss, forever unpunished for their misdeeds. People who do not put the words of Jesus into action are often just as surprised when their lives start crumbling down around them. Perhaps we need to spend more time building sandcastles, if only to understand what our Lord was trying to tell us.
The concept of building a castle out of sand seems outlandish. The countryside of Europe is still dotted with majestic castles that are centuries old, thanks to their solid rock foundations. Their perpetual beauty seems in stark contrast with the modern world changing around them (what could be more incongruous than a fast food restaurant next door to a medieval castle?). But these castles endure because they were built on rock. Yet, people spend hours laboring to build castles—the largest of all houses—out of sand, which will only be swept out to sea. I guess people would feel silly saying, “Let’s go build a sand-shack.” So to save face, parents everywhere are forced into an unofficial contest to see who can labor more in vain to build the biggest and best castle—made of sand.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Our kids were content with their small pails and shovels until another family arrived with enough equipment to build an actual Swiss chalet. My siblings and I used to build sandcastles with our bare hands, but that was irrelevant at this point, now that the Swiss Family Robinson had apparently showed up to throw down a challenge. Nevertheless, I deftly demonstrated to our children that if you pack down the damp sand very firmly in the pail and tip it over very carefully, you will have…a pile of mud that does not even remotely resemble a castle. But hey, if you stick a flag at the top, it looks like…a pile of mud with a flag at the top. The kids couldn’t even hide their disgust at our disappointing piece of sandy real estate. Meanwhile, our new “neighbors” were loudly and rather obnoxiously rubbing in the fact that their chalet was making our “castle” look more like an ant hill.
Suddenly, God decided to provide me with yet another biblical lesson, as He drowned out their antics with His voice.
Psalm 93:3 and 4
(3) The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
(4) Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the LORD on high is mighty.
Psalm 29:3 and 4
(3) The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.
(4) The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.
What was that awesome noise? The waves were rolling in like thunder, and in them I heard the majesty and power of God Almighty! The tide was starting to come in, and everyone was in a rush to save their creations. Dig a moat! Come on, hurry! Oh, how could we be so foolish to think we could deceive the boundary of the sea? A foundation of sand? Doesn’t the sea have a right to take back what is rightly its own?
Should you not fear me?” declares the LORD. “Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
After all that hard work, the sea came bursting through its doors, rushed in, and in its uncontained excitement wiped out the whole “neighborhood,” moats and all. In an instant, I realized that the size and quality of the houses did not matter; without a solid foundation they were both completely obliterated.
When lives are built on anything other than The Cornerstone, Jesus Christ, the labor is in vain. It’s like putting suntan lotion on children before they play in the sand. They roll in the sand and come out looking like graham cracker pie crusts. Then the sand gets in the food, and you can’t just pretend it’s some organic granola. You go in the water to wash it off, and as soon as you emerge, you’re a walking mud pie. Why is it that we can understand the futility of this phenomenon, but sometimes we don’t get it when we disobey the Lord and our lives collapse like a dilapidated sandcastle?
Jesus certainly spent a lot of time around water and boats, so I like to think that he was a beach lover, just like me. Even though he would not have had the sand sculpting tools of today, it is possible that he experimented with the qualities of sand the old fashioned way, by hands-on experience. With all of the times that he was by the water, I can imagine him sometimes turning his weary face into the breeze, inhaling the moist air, and stooping down to draw his fingers through the gritty sand of the shore. Perhaps at some point, he even packed down the damp sand very firmly in a bucket, tipped it over very carefully, and discovered…a pile of mud that did not even remotely resemble a castle. I daresay that even if Jesus had built a sandcastle, it eventually would have been destroyed. But a smile would have cracked on his sun-kissed face, during the enlightening moment as his sandy creation was washed away, and his heavenly Father revealed the importance of a solid foundation.