I’m driving into work today and I start thinking about the concept of looking back.
We often fondly look back at our life. We laugh at our crazy mistakes. We smile at all the happy times. We cry at our losses. And sometimes we look back with regret (or at least an eye roll) about the choices we’ve made.
I don’t think it’s so bad to look back. I personally believe it makes me appreciate even more how far I’ve come in my short journey. I can see all my choices in context and realize where I can be better. I also think it helps me see how really good God has been to me, whether I’ve realized it or not.
But I do believe it can be a problem to look back. When? When we choose to camp out and stay stuck in our regret. When we look back and never turn back around to today. When we wallow in self-pity, self-hatred, and self-recrimination. When we refuse to accept the grace and mercy that He so harshly died to give us.
And as I’m thinking about looking back, God brings to my remembrance Mrs. Lot. We don’t know her first name, her background, her beliefs, or her relationship with God. We only know 4 things about her from Genesis 19:
- She was married to Lot and they had at least two daughters.
- She was living in Sodom at the time God punished the city for their immoral behavior.
- God warned her not to look back – 17 So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”
Let’s stop here for a minute. I was compelled to look up the original Hebrew meaning of the word “look”, since it is her story. Why would God tell her not to look back? I know I would have been sorely tempted to see if He really was moving, especially if I heard all the noise of brimstone and fire being poured out from the heavens. I would have been sad to know my home and my friends were being destroyed. But God wasn’t talking about a quick glance or a curious look. The Hebrew word nâbat means to look intently at, to regard with pleasure, to favor, to care, to behold, or to regard. In other words, God didn’t want her looking at Sodom with longing, regret, or distrust.
So what does she do? The one thing she is known for:
- She looked back at the destruction.
And my brain being what it is, I started wondering. Why did she look back? Everyone has a theory. Did she look back because she was curious what was happening to the city, her home, and her friends? Did she look back because she wanted to see God at work? Did she look back because her heart belongs to the sin of Sodom instead of the gracious God who had just saved her? Did she look back and stare at the city, regretful of being pulled out of it?
So I study it a little deeper. No, she didn’t glance or take a quick peek. She turned around and did exactly what God told her not to do. In Genesis 19:26 we are told “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” And it’s the same Hebrew word nâbat. She looked back intently with longing for her home and her friends. And because of her disobedience, God punished her. The sum of her life became a legacy of being turned into a pillar of salt instead of having a great name, a great family, or a great story. When people talk about her, it’s not about her great faith but about her looking back.
That’s the sum of her life. A look and a pillar of salt. And it made me sad.
God is very clear in the Bible that he knows our hearts and will test our loyalties (Psalm 7:9c, Proverbs 17:3). Lot’s wife had this amazing God do an amazing thing for her by saving her family from the city’s destruction. But she apparently was more connected to the city – and its sinfulness – than to the God of her husband’s family. Instead of looking ahead to God’s promises and God’s favor, she looked back at the sinfulness and carnality that surrounded her and probably consumed her … to the point she was overtaken by sin and looked back, hoping God would relent and spare her beloved city. She chose the comfort of sin over the grace of God, and God punished her.
So why do you look back?
Are you convinced you can’t be any better than your past choices? Do you not believe you are worthy of His grace? Are you overwhelmed by an addiction or mistake that demands your focus?
Or do you look back to see how God has taken care of you? To see how far you’ve come in your journey with God? To remind yourself how very thankful you are that He found you and claimed you as His?
I know I like to remember the good times and bad. The bad times help me learn how good and gracious and merciful God really is. They also help me develop godly fruit in my life. I know when my grandfather did something inappropriate when I was 16, I eventually learned how to forgive. The burden of anger and hatred became so big it overwhelmed me, and the only way to release the pressure was to give it God in full. And you know what? He took it and gave me His peace in its place, just as He promises in Matthew 11:28-30. He also taught me that forgiveness is the only way to stay free. There’s no shame or anger attached to the memories, just sadness that someone chose to live his life that way and almost ruined his family as a result.
So what are you holding onto? What do you keep looking back on? And can you let it go today and give it to God?
Marie Fremin, 3/31/15