Imagine with me a sandy beach. Near the crashing waves sit two people who are working hard on very impressive looking sand castles. One is obviously older and more skilled. Her creation is not only taller, but certainly better formed and structurally sound.
The older one is teaching and helping the younger one as she endeavours to build her own sandcastle. It is a wonderful partnership. They look happy. They are excited about what these creations will look like in the end.
Then imagine with me another person on the beach. It’s hard to tell her age. She might be young, she might be old – it depends on the light. What is she doing there in the sand?
Well, she has obviously abandoned what was once an attempt at a sand castle. Instead she is rubbing the sand between her fingers. She’s wondering what it’s made of. She’s wondering if it’s really the best idea to try and make a castle out of it. Maybe it’s designed for some other purpose she doesn’t know about.
Then she gets up and starts sifting it, sorting it into piles of different shades. She is obviously a mixture of mesmerized and confused. It doesn’t seem that anything worth looking at will be created any time soon.
So, in case you were wondering. I’m the third beach bum in the story. And this is why mentoring college students can be tricky sometimes. My castle has been torn apart!
I find I am back down to the foundation and am fascinated by how it came to be there, what it’s made of, it’s graceful construction, and amazingly firm constitution. Amidst the rubble of former spires, drawbridges, and elaborate moats is just a simple, flat, pile of sand. And it’s all I need to keep me very, very, busy.
Students want to build. They want to grow. They want to see change. They want to see the castle begin to form and be a place where they can live out their dreams.
It’s a tricky balance to encourage this process, which is good – but also continue to help them NOT build anything that is not sound, and will not weather the storms. So, sometimes I feel like the builder, and sometimes I am the wrecking ball.
You can imagine, as I am a sensitive person, how hard it is to be in this role. It requires a humbleness I do not have, a willingness to be vulnerable, which I hate, and a commitment to long term solutions, which I am too impatient to apply.
Without Jesus, I would retreat from ministering to others, but as I study the sand, I find there is much to celebrate, and share.