Towards the end of our time I noticed the kids were intently focused on building a sandcastle together, but had positioned their castle site so close to where the waves were breaking, they were dealing with almost continuous interference from the ocean’s fierce splash. Every time a wave would come and leap (predictably) upon their castle, the kids would stand up, yelping with horror, shaking their fists at the Great Mother Sea, and then busily return to work repairing the fallen walls and digging a deeper mote.
After watching this cycle several times, amused and curious, I approached them, and asked: “Hey my loves, why build your castle so close to the waves? If you moved back just a few feet, I bet you’d suffer much less destruction?”
Ezra (7.5) stood up, facing me, and said: “Mom~ more than half the fun is dealing with the CHALLENGE of the ocean!”
Arayla (11) nodded in solid agreement with her brother: “Yeah Mom… every heard of a little drama in life, to spice things up??” She winked at me.
I asked them in disbelief: “You mean you purposely position your castle where the ocean is bound to be a continuous threat??”
Ezra, pure business-sense logic, explained patiently: “Yes, so we get to make a strategy Mom. To make things work better, we have to know what makes it fail.”
Adoring him, I said smiling: “Is that right? So you have to be strategic?”
Arayla said: “Yes. Like we just figured out that even though the front wall was strong, the ocean was still sneaking around the side, and damaging the back of the castle. So now we get to make the support around the back stronger. How boring would it be if we just made our castle all solid up further on the beach, with no problems or challenges? What would be fun about THAT?”
This stunned me silent; blew me away with the bigger life implications of what they were speaking about. I watched them a few minutes longer~ delightedly scrambling to fix and build before the next wave would come to test their work; squealing with joyous dismay, then back to the drawing board~ commenting, collaborating, improving the design, implementing.
I yelled out to them: “I get it! It’s like divine tension~ or, or, like holy adversity?!”
The kids looked up at their weird mother’s outburst, then looked at each other and totally cracked up. Arayla said slowly, making fun of me: “Um, yeeah…right Mom~ ‘Divine Tension’!” Then Ezra, cackling, mimicked: “Holy adversity!!” They laughed at me together, shaking their heads, while patting the wet sand down with their little hands, adding new clumps to strengthen their wall, glancing over their shoulders to be prepared for the next wave.
Hmmph. I don’t care what they say. This sandcastle-teaching of theirs soothes me deeply. We build our life-castles close to the ravenous shore of God on purpose! So as to continuously invite learning and evolution. So as to keep being humbled, and learn the fierce lessons of surrender.
There’s always been a part of me pretty resistant to this part of life that mirrors the Castle-in-the-Wavebreak phenomenon. This feeling of~ Quick: the next wave is coming!~ get prepared!~ you never know what it will destroy this time! After some time, this way of living can make someone a little jumpy! So hard on the nerves, so messy, so much hard work, so tiring. All this constant learning and self-reflection and steadfast dedication to healing and evolution~ Oy.
I mean honestly, at 42 years old, having lived and loved deeply and wildly for a lot of years now, challenged by the ruthlessly annihilating guru and rough rascal lover Life can be, I’m thinking the lovely, stable, boring castle up a little higher on the beach is looking mighty fine! I’ve kind of had it with divine tension and holy adversity! Definitely had it with drama! Give me a little divine ease and holy simplicity already! ;)
But I get the sense that the kids are dialed into something brilliant about our inclinations as human beings, as they play up against the tumultuous edge of life, squealing and scrambling with every wave, getting sandier and happier by the minute. Taking risks, while learning courage, patience and perseverance. Learning about mess and failure; about loss and what’s taken in the end no matter how hard we try to keep it. Learning about what the waves can’t touch inside us, no matter what they ruin on the outside.
Just as I was starting to pack up and shake out the towels, Ezra ran up to me, his face radiant as the shining sun, his body covered in sand, his heart bursting with sheer delight, and shouted: “As soon as we put our names on it, the Mother Ocean devoured it!!”
In awe over the potency of his words, I shouted back : “She did?!”
Arayla followed up behind him, shimmering golden-brown beauty, and shared: “We said to the ocean~ ‘Here is an offering for you!’ And the very next wave?? She took it ALL IN ONE BITE!”
I looked down at where their castle had stood, now nothing but foaming ocean froth, eagerly licking up the crumbs. I beamed at them, stunned by the beauty and intelligence of their souls, their momentary delight in the face of absolute impermanence.
I said: “That’s it! You offered, and she received. How could she resist your beautiful gift?”
As soon as we put our names on anything in life, in the next moment it goes back to where it came from. We can’t claim what was never ours to begin with. It always belonged to the great Mystery in the first place! And what sweet freedom resides in this wisdom? What a happy promise of loss, beckoning our continuous surrender.
But still, we have a name, and so we use it.
We have something to build, to offer, to give, and so we must give it.
Life wants to use us to give a gift to itself! It’s the gift we took birth to give.
We can give our gift fearfully, or stingily, safely or hesitantly…
OR we can nudge our gift right up to the frothing mouth of God, where she can’t resist but devour it in one bite.
After all that hard work, all those difficult lessons learned, make your gift, put your name on it, and whoosh! Watch it wash back out into the vastness from which it emerged...