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Redeeming the Years of the Locust

“I will make up to you for the years that the locust has eaten.” – Joel 2:25

Joplin, Missouri.

I stand transfixed in the hot July parking lot watching a brown grasshopper chew grass. Trucks roar by on I-44 and puffy clouds stack overhead. But the real drama happens in front of me, on the brittle bit of lawn next to the checkered floor of what used to be a Steak-n-Shake.

Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw. Munch, munch, munch. The grasshopper’s strong jaws make quick work of one blade of grass. He reaches for another. In the spray of clover by a red fire hydrant another locust dines. I see another, and then another. Their legs work back and forth like jagged violin bows all covered with scales. Fiddling a tuneless song, their timing seems all wrong.

Fresh utility poles sprout in melancholic lines down Main Street. I can smell their creosote. The tornado has left total destruction. For miles nothing remains but empty basements and bending weeds.

Within me, something twangs.

What do I do with the years the locust has eaten?

I think about my life in a cult. Twenty-five years, all told. Years of total devotion.

When my church suddenly blew apart I came blinking out into the light. Disoriented by the storm of my own misguided belief I sat quietly in the rubble of my life. My soul felt beaten, but free.

It has taken some time to recover.

South Main Street, Joplin, Missouri. July 2012. Photo by author.

Unlike a returning veteran, society holds no honor for an ex-cult member. There is pity, perhaps, and sorrow. But there is also the cloying shame and gnawing guilt and unspoken questions: What is it about me that made me stay in a cult? How could I have followed so blindly? And the verdict: What a fool.

Perhaps.

I sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind and now the storm has gone and I stand in the parking lot of my life and watch the grasshoppers dine.

But the storm has passed and I am still alive.

Still alive.

So I say again, what do I do with the years the locust has eaten?

What can I do? Those years are gone. They are no more. Gnawed into oblivion. Blasted with a whirlwind.

But God is not done.

I look around at my life and see the outlines of a city. The one I built is gone, of course, but there is still time for another.

Rebuilding in Joplin. Photo by author.

A different hand must build it, sure. And a different cornerstone must be laid. Grace will be the foundation of this city, and truth will shape its walls.

And when all is said and done it won’t matter very much about those 25-years of locusts. God will redeem them.

Sometimes he just needs a bare spot to start a better work.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

8 comments on “Redeeming the Years of the Locust

  1. What do you do with the years the locust has eaten? I would say you are doing it. If God’s purposes are always redemptive-and we know they are-then think of the many who may be saved from the same path by your humble willingness to be God’s instrument for leading them in a different direction. You set an example for all of us, because we all have a story like yours. The details may sound different, but the locust-shredded past lies just as much in need of a Redeemer. Thank God He gave us one. Thank you for pointing us all to Him.

  2. […] of my classmates and fellow bloggers posted this wonderful piece today about God redeeming lost and broken years…“For I will restore the years the […]

  3. Get out of it what there is to get out of it. Learn what there is to be learned. The life ahead of you is worth having.

  4. Very appropriate pics with the post. Joplin will rebuild as will you. What I appreciate is that you are not wasting those years, nor are you ignoring them, but are calling those years what they are – giving it a name: spiritual abuse. The tragedy of spiritual abuse is that it leaves so many feeling alone – – – they might think they are going crazy, doubt their salvation, or worse yet, leave church entirely. Keep talking, Steve. Your words are powerful. God is using you.

  5. This is a fantastic website. I was very close to being involved with a cult in Los Angeles, and I am still shocked by how easy it seemed, how right it first appeared to be. Thankfully God in his grace rescued me before I could be baptized into the group, but times were still tough for a while. I doubted my salvation, nearly left Jesus, the whole nine yards. Websites like this one have been a huge blessing to me in confirming that I was right to leave the group, and reassuring me that God still works everything for good, even through something as insidious and malicious as cult churches. So thank you for writing this blog. You are giving strength to a lot of people.

  6. Hi Steve, I just read this and noted that it was posted in 2012. Four years on I hope you and your family are doing well. I lost my marriage and in some ways, elements of my own integrity through my membership in a cult for 14 years of my early 30s and 40s. I am ashamed, but five years on, I can see exactly why both my husband and I were so vulnerable to these people and their ideology. It’s going to take a lifetime to heal and a miracle to forgive myself, but I too press on. Bless. Bridget

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