One of my favorite passages from God’s Word is found in Joel 2:25.
Joel 2: 16-27 says:
Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people. Yea, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and ye shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen: But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate, with his face toward the east sea, and his hinder part toward the utmost sea, and his stink shall come up, and his ill savour shall come up, because he hath done great things. Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.
God is promising His people that He will restore to them everything that has been taken from them in the divine chastisement. They had been warned…in fact, Joel is writing the warning and God is begging the people to repent of their sins…and now they are being promised that after they have suffered, if they repent, God WILL restore to them what has been lost! He is promising a reversal of fortune, a restoration of years and a removal of shame. This, of course, was before Jesus, our perfect sacrifice, died and rose again to restore to His people all that they had lost eternally. It is a foreshadow of what Jesus would so completely do.
I have lived through many years of locusts, but God has given me back so much more than I ever even had. He has truly restored the years the locusts have eaten for me! Relationships have never been easy for me. I suspect that they are not easy for most people. When you have lived your life in such a way to protect yourself, though, you tend to hold people at a distance. Especially those people whom you love. Those whom you love have great capacity to hurt you, for when you love there is an inherent risk that your love will not be returned or that it will be ill-used. At least that is how it feels when your soul is quietly bleeding and you are aching inside. I lived there for too many years: surrounded by people I loved, but always somewhat cut-off from them so as to not get hurt. It makes for poor relationships, false friendships, and the need to always put up a front so that no-one would ever see the “real” you. (As if I know the real me–although I am learning who I am!)
When I started the journey with Making Peace With Your Past and then Wounded Heart, I was assured that one day I would know who I really am, and that I would like me. I scoffed at that. Really. I did. I could not imagine liking myself. I had little hope that I would ever feel close to my siblings, and I had no hope that my relationship with my parents would ever be restored. I had some amazing friends, but to some degree I withheld myself from them. I was legalistic with my children, often more concerned with how they made me look than what was going on in their hearts. And we won’t even discuss how I was with the Handy Man. Let’s just say that he probably deserves a medal or sainthood….it cannot be easy to marry one woman and then watch her change before your very eyes into someone very different. (He has never complained about it, but I know I have tried his patience. He has put his foot down on a few things. I am not going to be getting any tastefully done tattoos on my foot, for example.)
As we ventured through unemployment (and here, and here ) and have experienced God provide for us in miraculous ways through all kinds of people, we have experienced His hand of plenty. Restoration has also happened, and it has been no less miraculous.
As I healed, as I learned to forgive and to seek forgiveness, God healed. God’s unconditional love led to my repentance for wrong ways of relating and bitterness that I had refused to let go. Mourning the losses of my childhood and the molestation that colored my existence led to healing as I faced emotions and allowed God to heal the brokenness inside my soul. As I learned to forgive others as I have been forgiven by my Heavenly Father, He gave me opportunities to rediscover the primary relationships that had been so twisted and deformed.
I love being able to help take care of my father. It is only one day a week, and I know that at some point my mother will need more help, but for now this is working. It would have been unfathomable four years ago that I would be in the position to do this now. We are reclaiming the years of broken relationships with my parents, and it is beautiful.
God has given me back my sister and one of my brothers. We genuinely love each other, and I find to my immense pleasure that I LIKE them as well. They are beautiful, talented, diverse people. We are different from each other and have learned to love each other in spite of and because of our differences. I have hope that my youngest brother will be reunited, too. We have started that process…I would have never imagined this five years ago. God has indeed restored, and I don’t think He is finished!
(L-R, me, my youngest brother Ryan, my sister Jenny (between the boys in birth order as well), and my oldest younger brother Eric)
This past weekend we did something we have never done as adults. We had a family picture made. It is a surprise for my parents. (SHH!) I think they will love it. We had never had a picture made with all the grandchildren. Only our oldest son was absent, and that by legal necessity. Dee and her obvious baby-belly, which bears testament to the next generation, were also captured by the camera for all perpetuity. Lindy is a very talented photographer, but as it is not really feasible to be the subject of the photo as well as the one behind the camera when there are so many subjects involved, my brother and sister hired a photographer for the occasion.
(Starting top left and continuing clockwise: My family, my daughters, all the cousins, and my boys with my nephew)
My children will tell you, as they have told so many people, I am not the same mama I was. My relationships with my children have evolved, and as they continue to mature in years as well as their Christian walks, it is a joy to uncover facets of our relationship that I had previously never known existed. I am a safer mama and I am not afraid to risk loving anymore.
Restoration is beautiful. I am still discovering me, but so far, my friend has been proven right. I like the me I am discovering. I am not perfect, and I never will be perfect. I still sin, and I am still bound by flesh, but I am discovering who God envisions me to be. As the weight comes off, and as I feel more comfortable in my skin, I know that the rediscovery of who I am will continue. God is restoring what the locusts have eaten even in my own soul. Isn’t that like our Lord? He gives more than we ask or think, and He restores so that the end is better by far than the beginning.