Castles in the Sand

When the waters rise, will our castles remain?

They grow up so fast.

Tonight I had the opportunity to babysit two of my favorite kids in the world. Don’t worry, I was not alone on this adventure – I don’t think any parents would be crazy enough to trust me alone with their kids for any length of time.

Once Mom and Dad came home, we looked through a bunch of pictures of these two kids as they’ve grown from babies to, well, older babies (eight months old and almost two years old). And since I’ve never really had much of an opportunity to be around babies as they’ve grown, it just amazed me how quickly these two are growing up.

Of course, that made me think of myself (obviously, since I’m a self-centered person). I am less than six months away from my 25th birthday, which means I’m nearly a quarter-century old. Now for me that feels ancient, and my little kid memories seem so long ago. But I recently asked my mom to put together a collection of photos from my childhood for me to keep down here in Ashland, and I can only imagine the thought running through her head as she reminisces with these pictures of me and my big sister – they grow up so fast.

Part of me has always wanted to stop growing up and be a kid forever – you know, the whole Peter Pan routine (aside from battling homicidal pirates, of course). But the more I think about it, the more I remember some of the painful experiences of growing up. I thank God that I will never have to relive my middle school years.

Jesus told us that we need to have childlike faith, and I think there’s more to that than we usually consider. So often we believe that it simply means an openness to believing anything, like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. While Santa Claus still is and will always be awesome and real in my book, the Tooth Fairy is just a bit creepy for my tastes.

But it’s not good for us to be stupid, and isn’t that basically what we often equate the phrase “childlike faith” to? Even if we cut out the negative connotation, it is still admitting a lack of intelligence and discernment to realize that some things just are not real.

No, I believe Jesus was speaking more to the physical nature of a child. Children, though terrified of many seemingly inane things, are fearless. Think about it. Every physical advancement a child makes is based on attempting to do something that makes no sense to him at the time.

The simplest things that we take for granted – like sitting up or reaching for something we desire – are nonsense to a newborn. They present a challenge that takes much effort and numerous failures before it is ever achieved successfully. And parents and loved ones stand watch encouraging and praising the child for the smallest accomplishments.

Somehow I think God looks at us the same way. God is love, and at the very core of that love is a genuine heart for His creation, His children. God looks upon us and sees a bunch of newborns who have yet to even scratch the surface of the potential He created them to possess.

As we live our lives in our own strength and desires, we grow in the world and learn what we can and cannot do without God. But we remain newborns in Christ until we abandon our own efforts and allow Daddy to help teach us the simplest things. At the start it is frustrating and tiresome, as we find that we cannot even articulate our most basic wants and needs. We cannot even move from one place to another without being carried. We are completely powerless on our own.

But as we allow faith to work in us and push us forward, we begin the process of growth. First, we muster the strength to sit up. Next, we’re rolling over and crawling. Finally, we’re standing and walking from one side of the room to the other. We continually fall down and skin our knees, but we’re walking!

Eventually, we can even be weaned off the milk of our mother and fed real food for sustenance. And someday we might even hold out hope that we’ll stop crapping over everything at the most inopportune time.

This entire process feels like an eternity while we experience it. I mean, really, what must a baby be thinking for those first months when he literally cannot communicate with his mother in any meaningful way? It must be overwhelmingly frustrating. And for each successful “first” in his life, that child has overcome hundreds of failed attempts to do something even the most inane adult would never give a second thought to.

Yet the parents continue to snap pictures at every moment because they know better. They don’t experience time the same way the baby does, and they know that these moments are fleeting.

I wonder what my parents must think about all these memories now that I’m “grown up” and live 500 miles away. It’s been almost 25 years, which seems forever for me, but I’m sure it’s felt so brief to them.

What about to a God who exists outside of time constraints entirely? Looking down on His children and seeing simultaneously every step of our growth, all of our inconsistent success and seemingly endless failures.

I can only imagine all of these parents are thinking the same thing: they grow up so fast.

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