A while ago it occurred me just how often we don’t know the names of Characters in the bible. Many of them do great things, and make a difference to history.
Lot’s wife isn’t one of them. She makes a brief appearance, and then becomes a pillar of salt. This is her story:
“Run and don’t look back.” That’s what they told me when we left the city. Left behind everything we had ever known.
“Run, and don’t look back.” That’s what the strange men said.
But what were we running towards. Lot didn’t seem to have an answer for that, neither did the angelic men. Only that we needed to run. And not look back.
But why shouldn’t I look back to the place where I had spent so many years. My friends were there, and so was my home. Surely one last look at the place where I had given birth to and raised my children wouldn’t hurt. Just so I could remember.
I know it wasn’t the best place to raise them. There was all kinds of evil going on, one of my neighbours had even sacrificed her baby to to the god of those people. Just thinking about it made me sick. But still, we had made a home there and memories too.
One look over my shoulder, one look at home, and security wouldn’t hurt, would it?
But it did, didn’t it?
Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt. She never got to know what her future could hold, because she couldn’t fully leave her past behind and trust God. While it’s unlikely that we will experience the same fate as her, spending a lot of time focusing on the past isn’t necessarily helpful of healthy.
Looking back with longing
I’m sure that we all know someone who’s life seems empty, because all they can think about is the past. They spend so much time thinking about what happened when they were younger, that they forget to enjoy themselves now. They forget to make new memories. Their past, whether good or bad seems to consume everything. Maybe we can even see a glimpse of this in ourselves. Maybe there are a few years from your life when things felt so easy and right, that you can’t help going back to that place in your mind over and over again. This kind of looking back clearly isn’t healthy if it robs us of our future, and even our present.
Being so filled with fear for the present that we bury ourselves in the past.
Wow, this is a hard one isn’t it. And I think that it goes hand in hand with my previous point. sometimes we can look back at the past because we are scared of where we are or where we are going.
Maybe there is a genuine reason for that fear. I know that I have felt like this when I have clearly been in a place where God didn’t want me to be, and I had to do something to get out of that situation.
But, if like Lot’s wife, we are exactly where God want’s us, we need to start focusing our energies on this time. Maybe we need to make the effort to make new friends, or spend time listening to God, to work out exactly what he wants us to be doing. If we are so fearful that we aren’t taking the time to do these things, then we can say that this kind of looking back is unhelpful.
I’m not saying looking back is never a good thing. But when looking back stops us from moving forward, of course it is. And we need to take control of that.
But looking back isn’t always a bad thing. We know that denying our past is not helpful, and that there is much we can learn and remember.
To reflect and learn
They say that a definition of a fool is to keep on doing the same thing and expect a different result. If we can’t look back critically how can we ever expect to do better? How can we ever expect to learn?
Taking time at the end of the day, to reflect on what has happened, to see where we have gone wrong is so important, so that we don’t keep on making mistakes. While I was studying at bible college one of our lecturers would repeatedly tell us that we are reflective practitioners. We needed to reflect on what we had done, so that we could avoid making the same mistakes, and get better.
This is also true on a larger scale. Maybe there is a pattern in our life or family, that we need to look back at, and reflect on before we can break free from it. But sometimes looking back purely to remember isn’t such a bad thig.
There is a real place for this. In Old Testament times, God often instructed the Israelites to pile up stones so that they could remember what God has done. So that they could have a physical reminder of what had gone before, that they would know that God can do it again.
It’s important that we look back at the past, to remember what God has done, to remember the good times, perhaps people that we have lost. And to even remember some of the pain. Remembering builds faith. We remember that God never left us or let us down, and that he never will.
So lets be wise about how we view the past, not becoming so caught up in it that we find ourselves trapped; instead learning from it and growing from it as we trust God for our freedom.
This is the second in my series about nameless characters from the bible, you can read the rest here.