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