Shortly after Christmas, Amy and I packed our bags and hopped on a plane for Florida to spend some time with her family. I have to say, Florida is pretty nice this time of year. I got to wear shorts and a t-shirt every day, sit by the pool, play tennis and basketball, and go to the beach.
During one of our beach excursions, I found myself watching our nephews try to construct a primitive sand castle right along the shore line. Having learned from previous sand castle building experiences, our eight year old nephew decided to add an extra-large wall on the ocean side of his sand castle to prevent the waves from overtaking it. However, as the afternoon waned on and the tide continued coming in, I watched as it beat and battered his extra-large walls, slowly tearing them apart and washing them out to sea. By the time we packed up to head out that afternoon, there wasn’t even a small trace of his sand castle remaining. It was as though his castle had never existed.
On the way home, I got to thinking about how similar my nephew’s sand castle building experience is to our own personal achievements. Many of us spend our entire lives building a sand castle that gets beat and battered by the storms of life, and within a couple hundred years of us passing away, there’s not even a trace that our sand castles ever existed.
When I look at my own life and all the stuff I’ve spent my time working on, I’ve seen the same thing happen to quite a bit of it. Most of what I’ve accomplished no longer exists. For example, in previous jobs, I spent hours developing numerous processes and procedural documents to help the projects I’ve been working on to succeed. When I moved on from those jobs, I passed my processes and procedures along to others so that they could continue to implement them, but I highly doubt any of them are still being used.
As another example, when I was on staff at Apex Church in Marion, Ohio, we spent lots of hours and lots of money trying to open up another campus in Findlay. Then the building caught on fire and was eventually torn down. A few months later, the congregation in Marion decided to move buildings, so I designed and led the effort to move our worship space to a different building. Five years later, the church now meets in yet a different building and our former worship space has been transformed into a barber shop. You’d never even know those buildings had at one point been set up as houses of worship.
On the other hand, there are a number of projects I worked on that still exist today such as Tiffany’s and the Lego store at Easton Town Center, the Wexner Medical Center at OSU, and my various tank farm projects at Marathon. But in fifty, a hundred, or two hundred years, I wonder how many of those projects will still exist. Will there be even a trace that any of these places ever existed?
At first, this realization may sound depressing. After all, who wants to spend their entire life building a sand castle that’ll get washed away when the tide rolls in? I have to admit that it’s kind of discouraging to think about these projects disappearing after all the sacrifices I made in order to accomplish them. But I’ve recently had a mindset shift which allows me to see my story differently. I don’t think my time spent on these projects was in the least bit worthless. After all, my work on these projects drew me closer to God, gave me lots of great learning experiences, and enabled me to build relationships with numerous people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met.
Later that evening, I couldn’t help but think about all the projects I’m currently undertaking and recognize that one day all of them will also disappear. In that moment, I found myself being challenged to consider whether I’m currently spending my money, time, and energy building worthwhile sand castles, or whether I’m spending my most valuable resources building worthless sand castles.
I want to challenge you to pause briefly to think about your life. If you knew that all the things you’ve accomplished and all the projects you’re currently working on will one day disappear, would you still continue doing the things you’re doing? Would you continue to build your sand castles, knowing that even though you may build extra thick walls, the waves are still going to beat and batter them until there’s nothing left? Or would you choose to build a different sand castle, one which is still going to get beat and battered by the waves, but which is going to add so much value to your life and the lives of those around you in intangible ways that it’s worth spending the time to build?