My oldest son, Ryan, just entered his second month of his overseas internship in Italy, apprenticing under three highly skilled master blacksmiths. He spent his first month in a small town south of Bologna with a renowned iron-working artist. Before finishing his Italian adventure in Rome next month, he’ll be staying a couple more weeks in a small town on the eastern side of the country, studying with an architectural blacksmith who is known for his fabricating and casting. While he’s busy at the forge most every weekday, the weekends give him ample time to explore and experience Italy.
So last weekend, I dropped him a text asking what he was doing. He replied: “Sitting on the beach by the Adriatic Sea, contemplating the meaning of existence.” Instead of being funny, he was actually serious and followed this text by asking me if I would like to read what he wrote.
I was astonished by his profound words. In a world of such confusion, Ryan’s clarity of thought was stunning for anyone, let alone one who has lived only 22 years. I asked permission to post his thoughts here. Please feel free to share.
I stood within the waters of the Adriatic and thought… ‘Legends are told of this place.’ A thousand generations of heroes, adventures and dreamers walked these beaches and sailed these waters. Men whose names I will never utter and whose stories I will never know.
Then I knelt down and lifted a handful of the coarse brown sand from the sea bed and watched as it filtered out, carried away by the water. As I watched, I thought, ‘What might these grains be? Perhaps the ruins of a hundred wrecked ships, never to return to port. Maybe the bones of men who died centuries before, their bodies lost to the sea.’
Then I thought ‘what now do we do with this life, this handful of sand amid the rushing waves? Because what is time if not grains moving fluidly through vessels unable to hold them. From dust, we were taken and to dust we will return.
What then must we do? How do we answer the grave question of our mortality? Do we clamp our hands shut, clutching tighter to the time allotted us, only to feel it more keenly as each grain slips away?
Or do we cast it aside declaring that ‘if this is all there is, then I want none of it?
Or perhaps we live for the moment, reveling in the sensation as each valueless grain slips away. For what meaning can a handful of crushed shells have in an ocean and a world so vast?
Then I turned my eyes on that horizon. The same one witnessed by heroes and beggars alike. And I gazed at the ocean, stretching as far as my eye could see.
Then I looked up and remembered that the same hands that hollowed out this sea are the same ones that bled on a cross to give value and redemption to my fist full of broken dreams.
There is blood in my sand, and it gives value to each and every grain.
So how then do I answer my mortality?
By offering my life to the One who first offered it to me.