Sand Castles and Dandelions

by Andy Wood on August 18, 2009

in Esteem, Life Currency, Love, Words

A famous writer once described a beach scene where two children, a boy and a girl, were building an elaborate sand castle near the water’s edge.  It had gates and towers and moats and internal passages.  Just when they nearly finished the project, a huge wave tumbled in and knocked the whole thing down.  Instead of bursting into tears because of losing their hard work, the girl and boy ran up the shore from the water, laughing and holding hands, and started work on another castle.

It seems so instinctive to children.  Take the most wonder-filled moments the day has to offer – a castle made of sand, or a dandelion just waiting to be carried by the wind – and look for someone to share it with in love.  But time and age have a way of turning our hearts if we let them.  Castle-building becomes the higher priority, and dandelions become annoying weeds.

Here is the author’s takeaway:

All the things in our lives, all the complicated structures we spend so much time and energy creating, are built on sand… Sooner or later, the wave will come along and knock down what we have worked so hard to build up.  When that happens, only the person who has somebody’s hand to hold will be able to laugh.

sand castlesLike anybody else who’s been around a while, I have my share of regrets.  One of them has been the tendency to walk away from relationships when it was time to “move up the beach and build the next castle.”  Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to have some people in my life who wouldn’t take “Good-bye” as the last word, and that’s a good thing.  Had it been left up to me, that relationship would have faded away.  I’m working on changing that.

In the previous post, I mentioned that even in an isolated prison, the Apostle Paul found a way to stay close to the people he loved.  In particular, he was a master at using words.  All throughout his life and ministry, this man knew just what to say or write to draw people to him, and to Christ.

Maybe we can learn some things from Paul’s example.  Once you know who’s in your heart (or who you’d like to have there), here are some ways to keep them close:

1.  Gratitude:  Thank them for what they did.

“I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3).

A few years ago I sent a contribution to my alma mater’s scholarship fund.    About a week later, I received a hand-written card in the mail – not from some institutional bureaucrat, but from an actual student, who wrote to thank me for helping her get an education.  She was a total stranger to me, but in an instant I wanted to know everything I could about her!  That’s how powerful personal gratitude can be.

Your life is built on the contributions of a myriad of people… from the person who empties your office trash to the people who helped pay for your education to the people you keep on speed dial.  And you’d be amazed at the power a simple “Thank you” can have.

2.  Praise:  Tell them why they’re different!

In nearly every letter he wrote, Paul says some things to the church or individual that he said to no other.  He praised the people in Thessalonica for their faith, hope, and love.  He called the Corinthians (of all people) gifted saints.  He praised the Philippians for their fellowship in the gospel and their involvement in his life.

I used to know a man named Bobby.  Every Sunday morning he’d come into our little church house and say in a very friendly way, “Hello Everybody!”  Week after week, the same:  “Hello Everybody!”  Over time I started wondering if he was really saying hello to anybody.  Never heard him call a name.  Never saw him actually set someone apart.  He was gracious and friendly, no doubt.  But I wonder who, if anybody, he was actually building a relationship with.

Here’s what I mean by praise:  Praise is something positive you say to someone about him or herself that sets them apart from others.  That’s certainly true of praising God.  It’s also true of encouraging people by praising them (and before you get religious on me about praising people, read the fine print in Proverbs 31).

Want to keep people close?  Let them know how they’re different!  Spend some time this week studying people and saying good things about them to them.  Tell them what you admire about them.

3.  Confession:  Tell them how you feel.

He knows how much I love and miss you these days. Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does! (Philippians 1:8, The Message).

Paul gives these people a glimpse into his heart.  He did that often!  He told them that when he prayed for them, it made him feel joyful.  He told them that when he remembered them, it made him feel thankful.  He told them that when he thought of them, it made him feel wishful.

The Bible talks a lot about the need for confession and transparency, both in your relationship with God, and in your relationships with others.  What’s so significant about that?  Appropriately telling others how you feel drops your guard and removes the barriers between you and the people in your heart.

4.  Confidence:  Tell them what you believe.

I’m convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, GW)

What kind of impression do you think it made on this church when Paul expressed his confidence that God was going to complete His work in them?  Do you think it drew them closer to Paul?  No doubt about it!

There are all kinds of ways that you can express confidence in somebody.  You can do it while you’re disciplining your children.  You can do it by encouraging another person.  You can do it by simply saying, “I believe in you” to somebody, so long as you’re prepared to explain why.

5.  Desire:  Tell them what you want.

“God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8, NLT)

How many people have distanced themselves from you because they came to the conclusion you didn’t need (or want) them?  People want to be wanted and needed.  And Paul knew how to express that.  Here he was writing to a group of people he was separated from, and he said, “I can’t wait to see you again!”

There are all kinds of powerful “wanting words:”

  • “Help me…”
  • “I need you…”
  • “I miss you…”
  • “I can’t wait to see you…”
  • “Would you please _______, (because) _________.”

I’m not suggesting you wear people out; being high-maintenance has its price, too.  But letting people know that their companionship in life actually matters to you gives your relationships enormous staying power.

6.  Intercession:  Tell them what you’re praying.

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding” (Philippians 1:9, NLT).

It’s always a shot in the heart to tell somebody you’re praying for them (and actually mean it).  But our relationships grow exponentially when you actually tell them what you’re praying.

When we went to Thailand last month, many of the people in our church wrote out cards and letters to open on various days in order to encourage us.  Many of them told us specifically how they were praying, and I can’t begin to describe the effect it had.

Just because somebody is in your heart doesn’t mean they’re in your life.  But you can do some things to help encourage them to get closer or stay close.  God help you and me if the castles come crashing or an adventure comes calling, and there is no hand to hold.

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