Genesis 19:26 ŇBut LotŐs wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.Ó
Once I heard the story of LotŐs wife in Sunday School, I never forgot it. A person turning into a pillar of salt is something you donŐt easily forget, I guess, although I couldnŐt tell you now what the point of the lesson was. Probably something about what happens to people who donŐt do what God tells them. Remember that God told Lot and his family to leave Sodom and not to look back. She did. Oops. It was only last year when I traveled to Israel that I learned that the story is so ingrained in their imagination that salt formations down by the Dead Sea are called ŇLotŐs wives.Ó
IŐve found myself thinking about LotŐs salty wife every day when I walk Ruckus. One of the routes we take is a long oval on connecting streets in the neighborhood. Going down the first side of the oval is always easy. While Ruckus may stop to sniff a tree or a bush, we basically walk at a nice pace. Then we take the U-turn at the bottom of the oval and come up the other side. There are a couple other streets we could go down at that juncture, but we never do. We always go the same way. And every single time, when we start to come up the other side, my nicely trotting dog suddenly becomes a brick wall. Sniffing a tree? Doing his business? No. He stops to look back. And he does it all the way up to the other turn on the loop. Walk, stop, turn, lookÉover and over. Then heŐs fine in the last little sprint to home.
I have no idea why this happens. Sometimes itŐs almost a full minute before I can budge 70-lbs of brick dog that wants to stand, with his head curved around, looking back. ItŐs almost like heŐs wondering what our walk would be like if we took some of those other roads. It reminds me of how we often behave. ItŐs pretty easy to get paralyzed by the ŇWhat ifŐsÓ of life. While being able to make a choice is empowering, thereŐs also an awareness that to choose one thing is to reject a series of other things as options. I remember the struggle of my husband when he was offered his first civilian job after his stint in the army. It was an offer from a University to teach in the field of health physics, which is where the army had put him. But David was really interested in optics. If he took the University job (which he eventually did), he would be cementing his place in health physics and cutting off a career in optics. But if he chose optics, he would have to go back down to the first rung on the ladder, since his experience thus far had been in health physics.
Lots of us get stuck in those choices. We want a direction, but itŐs hard to cut off other options. We like to think that all the doors will always be open for us to try. And for a while they might be. But every step we take in one direction makes it all the more costly to move back to try a different path. Of course there are also times when a choice is irrevocable. It is almost universal for those who have experienced tragedy to go back through the list of choices that were made just prior. What if I had demanded that she stay home? What if I had noticed the symptoms earlier? What if we hadnŐt gone to the game? We replay the scenarios over and over until we risk turning to a pillar of salt, or a brick wall, unable to move forward in the walk of life because we are so focused on what might have been.
Maybe thatŐs the truth of that Ňold wife taleÓ about LotŐs wife turning to salt. Maybe weŐre not supposed to see it as GodŐs punishment for disobedience, but GodŐs warning about how we can get so stuck in the past that we cut off our options for the future. If we stand in front of the closed doors of the past too long, the doors of our future might also close and we may as well be a pillar of salt. God has brought us out of the city of our past to give us a more hopeful future. Will we look to that future? Or will we look back?
Lead us forward, God. Help us to find our future in you. Amen.
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