Dear Bethel Friends,
Do you all remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? You know – that old Sunday School lesson about the destruction of a city because they had descended into a way of living that just was so counter to God’s culture that it couldn’t be saved? I was reading the story a few days ago – its in Genesis 18 and 19 if you want to read the whole thing. However, I was struck by a couple of passages (these are both in Genesis Chapter 19):
15 When morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Get up, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and left him outside the city. 17 When they had brought them outside, they[a] said, “Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, or else you will be consumed.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords; 19 your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life; but I cannot flee to the hills, for fear the disaster will overtake me and I die.
26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
This week I decided it was time to tackle the crawl space under our living room and start cleaning it out. One of the members of my family has terrible allergies and was really struggling every time they came in the house, and my theory is that its something in the crawl space that has been triggering this response. I don’t know about all of you, but the crawl space in our house is just a great big black hole for all our unused ‘stuff’ to disappear into. We have broken furniture, old toys, ancient electronics and bits of building material all just kinda of shoved in from the door way because its too low for any of us to get into it anymore. For a long time the kids used it as a ‘fort’, but now that they’re both grown and gone only spiders and mice have made their home in that space.
So, I started pulling things out of the crawl space; a little at a time. Its been this big descent down memory lane and I’ve found myself distracted by some of the ‘stuff’ and getting a bit nostalgic for the ‘old days’ when my kids would play with that one little dolly that was marked up by a sharpie, or would read the old ‘Babysitters Club’ book.
I found myself longing for those times; those ones when the kids were little, when my birdies were in their nest and I was consumed with the role of Mommy. And here’s the really weird thing: when I was in the middle of all that – the Mommy role, the working woman role, the wife and musician role and all of that stuff – well – I would long for the days when I was a student and was consumed by books and churning out essays. No matter where I am in life, it seems that I can ‘look back’ and see what I’ve changed from, and regret that the change has happened. Even good changes, like having kids, or finishing my Masters degree.
Because every change brings loss; even if the present is a gift and seemingly exactly where I should be, or if the future seems bright and new. Sometimes the loss seems bigger than the gift and the newness.
And I wonder if that’s what happened to Lot’s wife. The story tells us that Lot was urged to move his family out of city for his own safety and well-being. He resisted once, and it was only out of God’s mercy that he was saved; and yet when he finally flees for his life, his wife looks back, and turns into a pillar of salt.
His wife turns back. Turns back to what? We know the city was destroyed. We know that her life was preserved because she got out of there – and yet she couldn’t look forward. She had to look back, and it was the “looking back” that turned her into a pillar of salt. It was “looking back” that meant she lost her life.
I just want you to think for a moment about the fact that tears are salty. Not that crying is a problem. Its when crying, or regret means that you can’t look forward that it becomes a problem.
Maybe it was because she dissolved into her loss, regret and tears that she lost her life.
In church circles we often wax eloquently about the “good ol’ days” when our sanctuaries were full and we had Sunday Schools bursting at the seams and programs every night of the week. We often look back at those days and long for them to return; just like I was longing to return to the days when my kids were little. But, here’s the kicker – if we actually trust that God is leading us through our lives, then we need to trust that looking back will just mean that we risk losing ourselves in the process. Because, maybe, just maybe, the newness that God is leading us to is actually better – or at least life-saving.
So, I’m going to wash and box up the old toys, and donate all that is good to donate; which, frankly, is most of them. And I’m going to look forward at the wonder that God has given me; as Mom to two really remarkable adults, as Minister to a wonderful community of faith that has pivoted and is leading the way in virtual worship, and as a person with much life and much joy ahead.
Look forward with me, my dear Bethel Family. Your life may depend on it.