17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”… 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. --Genesis 19:17,26
New Year is generally a time of reflection. It’s a time to consider goals reached or not, decisions made, outcomes achieved and begin a plan for the coming year. Usually, I’m all for that kind of thinking. A little analysis can go a long way in helping to correct your course to a brighter future. But as I stand at the cliff edge of 2021, unlike Lot’s wife who just had to have one last peek, I am content to shake the dust off my sandals and make a fresh start into 2022.
Lot’s wife is a wonder to me. First of all, there she is still on Mount Sodom. I’m pretty sure that isn’t actually her, but it IS a mountain of salt, nonetheless. And why did she have to become a pillar of salt? Was it symbolic? Was it a punishment? Or was it just a consequence of whatever mechanism God used to rain down sulfur from the sky? If you read the story carefully, you see that they had all made it safely to the next town, so she wasn’t worried about her daughters’ safety. No, she disobediently looked back of her own accord.
God frequently reminds us that His ways are not our ways. We like to pause and reflect, tidy up loose ends, find ‘closure.’ But how many times does God and Jesus tell us to move on without a thought to the past?
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” --Luke 9:59-62
30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! -- Luke 17:30-32
18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. -Isaiah 43:18
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
Perhaps the lesson here is that although the past is defined as "gone by in time and no longer existing", it can still hold our imaginations captive. The past is something that should be forgotten, but unfortunately, a lot of people let it define them. When God calls us into His service, He wants the Holy Spirit to teach us, not lessons of the past. It’s too tempting to use lessons from the past as a roadmap to the future. This is the problem with ‘self-help’ – if your ‘self’ could have ‘helped’ you, you wouldn’t need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to daily renew your mind and spirit. You wouldn’t need God’s mercy which is new every morning.
God has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. We need to move forward in the light and not let the darkness of the past concern our thoughts. Maybe this is true more for looking back to our sinful, pre-saved lives and habits. Was Lot’s wife tempted to long for the rough, sin-filled life of Sodom? Remember how the Israelites longed for Egypt’s leeks and garlic even in the midst of God’s miracle exodus? Or maybe she just couldn’t trust God in the midst of the chaos.
If we continue following, He’ll continue leading, and the lessons we learn along the way will be just what He’s trying to teach us now. We won’t need a compass or a map.
Each day has enough trouble of its own. --Matthew 6:34
Maybe that is the real the takeaway for 2021.