Of Sand, Sea, and Adolescent Boys -- An Edisto Beach Reflection

I watch them, these pre-adolescent boys poised between land and sea. Mama stands by, camera at the ready, a dark silhouette against the August sky. They elbow each other, a gangly pair, jockeying with elbows and knees to see who goes first.

Their scuffling slows as they catch a glimpse of me on the periphery of their sandy stage. One quick glance is enough to place me in the same category as their mother—old—too old for their egos to worry about what I think. A second glance momentarily stills their jostling, and I know without following their eyes that they have spotted my beautiful daughter, trailing behind my brisk pace as she walks the soft sand at the ocean’s edge.

With the recklessness of youth they weigh their options: Play it safe and wait until we pass, or take a risk right there in front of us. If they fail--sand-covered shame. If they succeed--sun-drenched glory. 

But the die is cast and the camera is rolling.Their eyes meet in unspoken testosterone-laden agreement as my daughter nears. First one, then the other, flings his skim board into the shallows. He wobbles, topples, and falls in a heap of arms and legs, sand and sea. The other, too close behind, but still neatly in his mother’s viewfinder, barrels over the top of his prone brother, joining him in a sand-spitting pileup that startles the sanderlings into flight.

The birds’ laughing cries join those of their mother as my daughter and I discreetly turn our faces before they can see our grins.

“I had it until you knocked me down,” one postures defensively.

“You’d fallen off before I even threw down my board,” the other says in response.

As we leave them sputtering and squabbling, I see the family resemblance and realize—they look like me. 

Me when I answer the call and then balk at the risk. Me when I weigh the options and consider what others think. Me when the fear of failure keeps me from doing what I know God’s called me to do.

I stand, poised for action, ready to launch. And then I look around. I realize there are two potential outcomes—fail or soar. Soar or fail. Take a risk or play it safe. Step out on the water or sink into the sand. Go for the glory or automatically fail because I didn’t try.

As I ponder this mini-drama before me, the surprise ending bursts through like a center-stage spotlight. I realize that every time I take a risk for God, I win. I soar. I make God smile. 

Even if I end up in a heap of tangled limbs with sanderlings laughing above me, I make God smile. Not a kind condescending smile, but a genuine, all-out, I’m proud of you for trying smile, just like that mama hiding behind the camera.

I realize that God doesn’t care whether I clumsily splatter into a sand-covered heap or gracefully skim to the end of the wave. God cares if I try. God cares if I obey. God cares if I take a risk for him.

The satisfaction of frightened obedience far outweighs the sting of less-than-stellar performance.

“Not that I have already obtained all this,” the apostle Paul said, “or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).

“A ship in the harbor is safe,” theologian William Shedd said, “but this is not what a ship is built for.”

How about you? What has God called you to do? And what is holding you back? A wise friend once said to me, “To delay is to disobey.”

Let’s launch out together for him.


  1. Carolina certainly has some great beaches; Edisto is no exception. I always have my best experiences with God sitting by the water and reading my bible or just watching the waves.

  2. I love how you see God speaking to you in the most mundane of moments, Lori. And you retell this story in a way that only a momma can! And yet it is so sweet that you identify with the clumsy ways of the boys trying to capture your daughter's attention. I think I'm like that too. So I am taking your encouragement to only worry about the approval of One person in my life. Thanks for this beautiful reminder of His love for all of us!

  3. Such a great story, analogy, application, challenge! Thank you, Lori, for this well written word--it comes at just the right time for me (no surprise :) One of my favorite lines: "The satisfaction of frightened obedience far outweighs the sting of less-than-stellar performance." God bless you, friend!

  4. Nice analogy - great reminder. Love the way you write - always beautiful and thought-provoking, Lori.
    Thanks for linking up at Essential Fridays.
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions.