They came with little warning. There was a rumor, but neither my wife, Kris nor I knew for sure if the prophecy was true. And, as most plagues and pestilence arrive when least expected, this was no different. We were at a wedding. A beautiful Friday afternoon with flowers, friends and great joy. We did not prepare for the hell that was waiting for us.
They planned to stay. For a while. Quite a while.
Kris and I live in a rather modest home with two West Highland Terriers. We call them Westie Terrorists. They have been our companions and our “kids” for well over a decade. In that time, we’ve developed a lifestyle that is complimentary to dogs without children. So, when my wife’s niece, husband and four offspring arrived via recreational vehicle, our home became topsy turvy. Knowing we would be out, we gave them the secret location of the house key. They made themselves at home - packing the fridge with food and bathrooms with paraphernalia. They planned to stay. For a while. Quite a while!
The first days were spent getting to know the children ages 2 to 8 years; the two youngest I’d never met. And as most introductions go, they were initially cautious and reserved. But, after a birthday party for my wife and some familiarity, we all settled. And as with any relationship, especially ones that test the fabric of family togetherness, things were bound to get dicey.
They’d stole my melon and my heart.
I’d just sliced open a wonderfully, perfectly ripe, honeydew melon. I tasted a small chunk and was delighted with the sweet, succulent flesh. With eager expectation, I took my place at the kitchen table, longing to dive into the last-of-summer sweetness. Turning to my left, I grabbed a napkin anticipating needing several more. But I heard a strange giggle coming from the direction of the beautiful bowl of fruit. To my horror, as I slowly turned, I saw three chin-dripping-with-juice faces grinning wildly. Cheeks packed so tightly a chipmunk would be envious. My eyes dipped down towards the bowl. What was once piled high now held one, lonely, chunk of delicious dew. My eyes, still not comprehending what had just taken place in less than 30 seconds, looked back at the chuckling swarm, chins still dripping with sugary sweetness. All I could do was join in their circle of joy. They’d stole my melon and my heart.
I began to refer to them, quietly at first so as not to anger the parents, as the locusts. They devoured plate after plate of food. Voracious appetites that never seemed to be appeased. Not much after breakfast was cleaned up, Mom would begin lunch prep. Then dinner prep. Then bedtime. Then breakfast and the cycle would continue. This loop went on for weeks as they played, laughed, cried, ran and rolled through our home. And the next month, when they left, I reflected on my experience as I cleaned the cabinets of finger smears and food chunks. I realized that in the midst of locusts, God often brings the promise of blessings.
Life is trying. At times disastrous. Episodes of heart-wrenching anguish leave desolation, pain and wreckage. Now, I’m not saying that our niece and family were anything close to a catastophe, but what they did bring was a bit of understanding as to how God often works during traumatic times (I still haven’t found where the dogs are hiding).
In the small, biblical, prophetic book of Joel, the writer talks about the decimation of Israel from a swarm of locusts, great and small, old and young. They eat everything in sight (sounds a lot like my great nieces and nephews!). Now, Joel is trying to prepare the people of Israel, and even us, for The Day of the LORD; God’s final judgment. He uses imagery that Israel - and now myself - understand, devouring locusts! But the promise from God through Joel is that He will eventually restore all that the locusts have eaten, even to greater blessings. As I scrubbed food from places I didn’t know little fingers could go, I did so with a great blessing in my heart. After two smashed coffee carafes (the parents did buy replacements) and some lost sleep, Kris and I gained things far more valuable in the wake of their visit.
God’s blessings don’t often come in concrete forms after hardships and difficulties. We usually have to realize the blessings of God apart from the practical. I wouldn’t trade any of the disruption of those weeks for any quiet and peace. I gained a profound pleasure from children’s squeals and screams. In fact, I told my wife the other day that they are welcome anytime for any length of time should they choose.
Know this, as you allow God to walk with you through this swarm, there will be blessings on the other side.
So, I want to leave you with this encouragement. You may be facing a swarm of locusts right now. It may not be as benign as small children. It may be devastating like a death in the family or an illness of a dearly loved one or financial struggles or even marital collapse. Know this, as you allow God to walk with you through this swarm, there will be blessings on the other side. As hard as that may be to believe right now, it's true. I never knew how much stickiness is smeared around a house by a 2, 4, 7 and eight-year-old until last September. I also didn’t know the depth of struggle and darkness that would accompany caring for a wife with cancer until last Summer. But in the aftermath of a battle, there comes a promise of God for those who endure. A promise to restore what the locusts have eaten.
*You can check out the ministry my niece and nephew have called, Because Family or on Facebook. They work with parents to keep children safe online. It's a fantastic ministry with resources and excellent support.