I will repay you for the years the locust have eaten… You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you.Joel 2:25-26a
Recently I was at a wedding, and the DJ was doing magic tricks, as fantastic DJs do. One minute, we were dancing to Bruno Mars, and the next thing we knew, a Phoenix song was playing. The DJ would match the beats exactly, subtly mix the two songs, and transition us straight into another genre of music long before we were aware of any change. That night, when someone asked me, “How are things with your dad?” I realized: sometimes God works a little bit like that DJ.
My dad has been a dissonant note for a long time. Early on, in the earthquake years, I’d pray for change of a certain variety–front door reunions and big fat apologies, maybe a wedding, definitely some sort of memory eraser. But in the aftershock years, once my happy-ending visions proved unlikely, I accepted the new status quo–a serviceable but mediocre rhythm. Just a few weeks ago, though, I hit play on my voicemail and heard a single chord in my father’s voice: warmth, compassion, health; an unlikely triad. While I was listening for the old song, a new one was fading in. When I finally heard it, I couldn’t quite place it. Although new, it also felt vaguely familiar, like a stranger who resembles your best friend. And then I recognized it as something I almost prayed for, once, maybe fifteen years ago: the sound of a crack appearing in a familial Berlin Wall, tiny fractures in a generational curse. One mental breakdown and two decades later, my dad is back, and better. Now, I look back over the last years and can discern both subtle modulations (the job I prayed for him to get; a spiritual mentor in his life) and startling key changes (restoration between my dad and his dad; medication; forgiveness) that led to this different tune. Even so, it’s not over yet. This particular miracle isn’t complete: while my dad is much healed, the debris still floats around my family like an island of plastic wrappers. There are problems attached to each problem, other old rooms whose renovations haven’t yet begun–or so it seems.
The existence of even a single miracle is proof that while we’re still singing the old song, the tune is changing. We can pray with hope for change in the most chronic problems. The Bible is full of overly ambitious prayers: we know them, we quote them, we occasionally pray them, but they feel ridiculously implausible. Restore the years the locust have eaten. Turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Let the dead rise. Let the dry bones praise him, the rocks cry out, the light shine in the darkness, the trouble overcome, the curse come undone. Restore the fathers to their children. These phrases are emotionally charged, hopeful, great in theory, but with some rather large logistical problems–flying insects the least of them. We rarely ask for miracles that span generations. It’s too much to ask, so we don’t. And yet God is already working on it, usually unasked. If he answers when we don’t ask, how much more will we be privy to when we do ask? In our asking and waiting, we just might glimpse the great dance floor, the God of restoration who is turning the tide, turning the tables, spinning his kingdom across the floor into new rhythms, splicing in samples of the change to come, slipping in evidence that all is not lost.