The wasted years
In the last post, we were reminded of how God responds. God restores.
Within Joel chapter 2, there’s a verse that I didn’t mention before, a verse that I wanted to have a blog all of its own.
I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten –
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm –
my great army that I sent among you. Joel 2:25
I’ll make up for the years of the locust, the great locust devastation. (The Message)
And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten (The King James Version)
At that time and in that place, God is speaking quite literally. There’s been a locust invasion. Total devastation of crops. It’s going to take years and years to restore the land – plant new crops and wait for them to grow.
And yet through his prophet Joel, God promises His people that He is going to make up for all that they have lost. He will repay the time lost.
There’s a less literal sense too. The people have turned away from God and lived in rebellion, following their own ways. They’ve wasted so many years chasing foreign gods. So many years not trusting the one true God. So many years not obeying the one true God.
Wasted so many years. And time is the one thing that cannot be repaid. Broken relationships can be restored. Things can be repaired or reimbursed. Walls can be rebuilt. But you can never turn back time, never get back the time that you have lost.
Only God can do that.
I associate this phrase with my dad. I can’t even remember the context he would say it in, but I would remember the tone of his voice. The deep regret. I saw it as that – a focus on the wasted years. Something very depressing. Interestingly, chatting to my sister the other day, she revealed that for her, this phrase uttered by my dad carried hope. The hope that God could make all things work out for good. That God could make the best of any situation.
She’s right, of course. God can take all the wasted years, all the missed opportunities, all the regrets and weave them into something miraculous and good.
And so for me, I wish that I had not wasted so many years drowning in negativity and depression.
I wish that I had understood how to accept myself and love myself and care for myself sooner.
I wish that I had had the confidence to become a writer when I wanted to in my teens and hadn’t waited until my forties.
I wish that I had entered into a better relationship with my mum before it was too late.
I wish I had relaxed and enjoyed my babies more.
I wish I had found a way to serve God more effectively in my church and community.
I wish we had known earlier how to understand, help and support our kids.
I wish I’d discovered running before I was 49.
I wish I started dancing before I was 50.
And I look back over all these wasted years with regret and deep sadness.
And yet I know. I know that God has used all of this experience to make me into who I am today. God can repay me for those wasted years. God can make up for those wasted years. God can restore those wasted years.
Nothing has been wasted or will be wasted.
Those are my wasted years. Yours will be different. Maybe you have regrets and grief around illness or disability or a failed relationship or an unsuccessful business or addiction or debt or lifestyle or faith in God…God can take all of those wasted years and turn them into something beautiful.
He already has.
There’s a long tradition in Japan of repairing broken pots with gold. It’s called ‘kintsugi’ which means ‘golden joinery’ in Japanese. This has become the art of fixing broken ceramic objects with a lacquer resin made to look like solid gold. This resin is often actually made using genuine gold powder.
In this way, a broken pot repaired by ‘kintsugi’ becomes more beautiful, more treasured, more precious than before. The repair is seen as a creative addition to the pot’s life story.
The analogy is clear: when a human life has been broken and has a history, it becomes more beautiful, more treasured, more precious. This helps us to see ourselves and those around us with new eyes.
As God sees us.