Restoration... In Progress
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten…”
Joel 2:25 (NKJV)
Restoration is SLOW.
Anyone who has ever updated a kitchen, rehabbed a house, worked on a marriage, or trained for any type of athletic endeavor knows this. However, in our Western culture, most people choose to ignore this truth.
We love a quick transformation. TV has capitalized on this fact, alluring us into 30-60 minute shows, which perpetuate the idea that we can get to our desired destination (whatever that may be – new body, new home, new job) quickly. We’ve become so accustomed to this “quick fix” mindset that we often find ourselves discouraged and frustrated when change doesn’t happen immediately or on our timeline. In some cases, many even become irritated with God for not helping things move along faster.
Scripture is not unclear or deceptive about the slowness of restoration; we just miss it.
Joel 2:25 is an incredibly hope-filled verse – one of my favorites. However, as with many texts in Scripture, this verse can sometimes be romanticized as we think about God restoring what life, sin, or other broken individuals have taken from us. While it is encouraging to think about waking up one day to a life that is full and restored, this verse is not saying restoration will happen quickly.
For clarity, we need to look at the text surrounding Joel 2:25; there we see what God is really revealing to us about restoration. In the verses prior we read about trees bearing fruit, vines bearing grapes, and threshing floors full of grain. Abundant, overflowing harvest is the imagery and it is beautiful. But it is also the language of growth - which is a slow process.
I’m no farmer, in fact, I don’t even have a green thumb, but I’ve seen the slowness of plant life not just growing, but also forming and bearing fruit. It takes time and lots of necessary elements for success – water, soil, nutrients, sunlight, and waiting. The same is true for us.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not good at waiting – I’m terrible, actually. But over the years I’ve come to see more clearly the beauty in the slowness of change and restoration. Personally, I believe the slowness is what solidifies the restoration, strengthening our resolve to keep moving forward in light of the new changes we’ve implemented.
It is not without difficulty, but there is an unspoken glory in the journey of restoration.
I witnessed this glory a few weeks ago in a group counseling session I facilitate with men who have recently been released from prison. The men participating in the group have signed up for a program that is designed to help them re-enter and become productive members of society. The program addresses their trauma, substance use, educational needs, and helps them get and maintain a job that can provide for their families in legal ways. It is a great program, but also extremely challenging for individuals who are accustomed to making a lot of money quickly through illegal means.
As the group began, I noticed a downcast, sorrowful look on one of the men (I’ll call him Leon for the purpose of maintaining confidentiality). Leon is always smiling and upbeat, so to see him so low was heartbreaking. I asked, “Leon, what’s up, where’s that smile?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out three folded and crinkled one-dollar bills and said,
“I’m broke Miss Stephanie. The holidays were great you know, but now I ain’t got no money and I’m stressed. The thing is I know I could go out today and make some fast money, but that’s not who I want to be anymore. I’m trying so hard to do life the right way but I’m frustrated it’s not getting better faster.”
One of the other group members chimed in, “Leon you love to write music, why don’t you take all those thoughts and write about it? I know you’d still be thinking about it, but at least you can do something you love with it, right?”
Leon looked down at his phone and I thought for a moment he was emotionally checking out of the group – which occasionally happens. Then something happened… the glory came.
Leon’s phone began to fill the room with music he had composed and recorded (a detail I would learn later). As the music’s intensity grew, Leon slowly stepped out into the middle of the group circle where he began rapping in a way I’ve never experienced in a live setting. It was phenomenal and glorious to see this man use rap music (one of the few acceptable forms of public vulnerability in his culture) to share all that was in his heart. It literally brought me to tears.
Several weeks have passed since that day. Leon is still on track, moving closer towards his goals. While some days are more difficult than others, in the slowness of restoration he finds encouragement to keep moving forward, and his resolve strengthens as he finds creative ways to express the struggle of the journey.
Reflecting on Leon’s life, I see the embodiment of Joel 2:25 happening before my eyes. The years he lost through incarceration are being restored as new growth is slowly appearing. It has taken more time than he’d like but it is coming. Leon is indeed, restoration… in progress.
For Your Reflection…
Where do you see God in the slowness of the restoration you desire? I promise you, He’s there.