Danielle LaPorte recently said, “Do not give your past the power to define your future.” Nowhere is this seen more profoundly (and painfully) than in the story of Lot’s wife.
She lived in a city embroiled in avarice and greed, abhorrent behavior, every seen and silent sin. God wasn’t happy with any of this and told Abraham that the only foreseeable solution was to destroy the whole place. Abraham bargained – again and again – hoping to save as many good people as he could, fonally getting agreement from the Divine as it related to his nephew Lot and his family. Angels were then sent in to warn Lot of the impending doom and to compel him to leave. 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.” 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. When they had brought them outside, they 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.” …Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fore from the Lord out of heaven; and God overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (from Genesis 19)
Much could be discussed about divine retribution – witnessed here and in many other parts of this Text. It’s hard to understand, harder still to incorporate into our desire for a God of grace and mercy. And though I could wax long and maybe even eloquently on this (and the ways in which I think of and even attempt to make sense of such things), I want to point our attention to the woman in the story: Lot’s wife.
She was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did.
She did look back and I love her for that. It was human, to be expected, a normal response to horrific circumstances.
And the result? She was turned into a pillar of salt.
It has been said that turning into a pillar of salt was what she deserved for not following obediently, quietly, and without argument. Hmmm. ‘Not quite the way I see it, want to see it, want to see her.
And that’s my point: I want to see her!
She’s deserving of being seen. She’s worthy of being heard; her voice whispering (and sometimes shouting) through the ages…
Don’t look back!
I don’t blame her. In fact, it makes sense to me; even compassionate and right. She was leaving behind all she had known, her home, her friends, and undoubtedly more family. Who could do such a thing without a backwards glance, without remorse, without a turn in remembrance and grief toward all she was now forced to forget?
This is both understandable and wise: honoring our past and paying close attention to all that has gone before. We do well to look back at the story that is uniquely and powerfully our own; at where we’ve come from – and whom.
But that very same reflection can easily become the tendency and temptation which keep us from moving forward. This is what Lot’s wife shows us in monumental ways.
Lot’s wife calls us to set our sights on all that is ahead, to look toward the new lands we’ve been promised, to run-not-walk toward the future that is ours, and on the way, to cling tightly to the hand of the angels who know that full-tilt life awaits us when we have the courage to risk, to dare, to trust.
Easier said than done. It is hard to move forward when it means letting go of the past – whether patterns and behaviors or pathologies and relationships. We’re comfortable with the way things are, thank you very much (even if they are unhealthy and actually keep us from progressing, growing, becoming stronger). It is seemingly far less disruptive to just do what we’ve always done (while hoping for different results) than the brave and bold work of changing, leaving, turning away, not turning back.
Lot’s wife calls us to honest reflection; to brutal truth about where we currently “live.” And then she requires even more: we must loosen our grip on all that’s behind us and grasp tightly onto the hands of any and all Divine messengers who compel us to all that’s ahead.
Lot’s wife calls us to more: to a sustained, powerful, and ongoing story.
Hear her voice as you think about hard choices: Don’t look back.
Hear her voice as you acknowledge your fear; as you trust an unknown future in exchange for an all-too-familiar and less than-healthy past: Don’t look back.
Hear her voice when you lean toward compromise over challenge, passivity over proactivity, default over declaration: Don’t look back.
And hear her voice when you need to be reminded that you are not alone in any of this – the looking back, the standing still, the moving forward. I know, she says. I’m with you. Take my hand…
Even more than her imagined voice, this is her timeless legacy and infinite gift. She is the Divine messenger that pulls us into all that is ours to have, to create, to enjoy, to live.
Don’t look back. Take my hand. Angels wait to escort you right into the promised land.
May it be so.
One last thing. Often in fairy tales, characters who fail in a quest are turned to stone until they are rescued by the successful hero. The story of Lot’s wife, no matter how we understand it – as fact, as fiction, as myth, as archetype, as legend, as lore – is not this kind of tale.
She stands firm and tall, memorializing a woman’s generous and ever-beating heart for all she has created and birthed, nurtured and loved, built and sustained and as crystal-clear and clarion call to be our own hero and rescue ourselves; to do the hard work of breaking old habits and healing old hurts; to cry salty tears while we move across the desert plains, through the hills, into the promised land: a new strength, a new and glorious future.
Yes, may it be so.