"O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord your God. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." - Joel 2:23a, 25, 28 (NRSV)
Sometimes biblical narratives of restoration strike me as too simple. Too uncomplicated.
Like when Job receives a new family to replace the one he lost, as though that were an even trade. Or when God promises through Joel, "I will repay you for the years the locust has eaten," as if good years somehow erased bad.
But trauma echoes. In bodies and communities.
I remember learning in a human paleontology class that signs of childhood malnutrition were present in the fossilized remains of an adult some tens-of-thousands of years later. The years the locust has eaten are written into our bones.
Pain and oppression have lasting consequences, scrawled across generations. And a better world today (or maybe tomorrow?) is not enough to heal past harm. It doesn't begin to be enough.
It's hard to imagine what ever could be.
So God sends a new imagination, pours out a greater vision.
A dream of true restoration. Of meaningful reparations. Of healing, down to the bone.
May all flesh receive it.
Spirit of Restoration, be poured out over us. Give us greater understanding of the trauma that echoes within and around us. And greater imagination for a world in which it can grow quiet and still, truly healed.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.