And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.KJV, Joel 2.25
When, oh Lord, when? When we turn to you. When we place them in your hands. When we ask you to!
I am a bit of literalist sometimes in reading scripture. When I read, “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount with wings like eagles,” I ask: How does that happen?
Which is what I usually ask when I read this: And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten?
I ask, How does that work out in practice?
Now, forgive me, God, and do not smile–for trying to reduce the immensity of your power to my capacity to understand it. But that is what I need to do, right now as I paddle in the shallows of your immensity
* * *
The phenomenon of the years the locusts have eaten being restored to us is actually not an unfamiliar one in the story of creativity.
I think of the wonderful poet Rainer Maria Rilke who gathered up strength and sweetness all his life as he struggled with a writers’ block which lasted for decades, indeed intermittently all his life. And then, in his phraseology, the angel came. And he wrote the beautiful Duino Elegies in an astonishing burst of creative power. Like Handel who wrote the Messiah in three weeks.
Faulker wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks working six hours a night from midnight to six a.m. Annie Dillard comments on this, “Some people cross the Niagara Falls on a bike. Some eat cars. Who would offend the spirit who hands out such gifts?”
Samuel Johnson wrote his classic Rasselas in a week to pay for his mother’s funeral, creativity blossoming under time pressure. Sylvia Plath wrote her astonishing Ariel poems in her life blood over a period of weeks, “The blood flow is poetry/There’s no stopping it.”
I suppose Van Gogh experienced a similar burst of creativity before his incarceration.
The trick I suppose is to accept God’s gifts of creativity with open hands, flowing with his rhythms so that one can be creative for a long time, and not burn out like Plath or Van Gogh after their bursts of genius.
So Abraham, crouched in his tent, thinks of the promises, always those promises: His name would be great, and he would be a blessing, and all nations on earth would be blessed through him.
Trouble is–he does not have a single child, he who has been promised descendants more numerous than the grains of sand on the seashore.
Not one single child!
* * *
And God tells him to step outside his small tent which makes his vision small, and look instead at immensity.
“Count the stars—if you can,” God says, “So shall your descendants be.”
Can God who made these gleaming myriads of stars not make one human child?
Abraham believed God and it was accredited to him as righteousness.
He slept again with Sarah, though she had urged him to sleep with her younger slave Hagar and father children through her.
He had Isaac whose name is laughter.
* * *
What is your impossible dream? The word you heard God say to you, the promise you heard him give you, the dream so long deferred that remembering it has the bitter taste of mockery.
The impossible person?
The impossible project?
The dream you feel you have the talent and ability for, but which lies locked within you, dormant.
Dreams can have a long gestation.
* * *
Step outside. Look at the stars.
Nothing is impossible with God.
Take your dream. Double it. And again.
Dream hard. Pray hard. Work hard.
Then lie down and rest in peace, for you can no more birth an immense dream by yourself, than you can scatter stars through the heavens.
Work restfully, and sleep restfully, leaving your dream in the delicate hands of the one who scatters stars through the heavens for the fun of it.
Because he loves beauty.
And you. And me.
Can miracles happen today? Breakthroughs in creativity? In writing? In publishing? Financial miracles? Breakthroughs in health?
Well, people always say, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Well, I retain my faith in miracles, because you see, I am incredibly well-connected.
I know a guy who can change 5 loaves to 5000; can help me walk on water, and change that water into wine.
And he whispers to me, “Do not be afraid. Trust in my Father. Trust also in me.”
“Moses, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus, Chapter 4.
Am trying to write with less dependence on education, training, previous reading and study, and more reliance on the spirit of God, of creativity. It’s a very interesting retraining of instincts and reflexes, after so many years of relying on the former.
Though generally the hearts of both adults and children sink at the words “Family Service,” we had good ones this Easter.
Jesus after his resurrection was as pithy, trenchant and incisive as ever, and his questions cut, once again, to the heart of the matter.
His first words, practically, “Why are you weeping?”
And then, “Be not faithless, but believing.”
These two sentences are connected, somehow!