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I’ve always been both fascinated and horrified by the story of Lot’s wife.  For those of you who don’t remember the story (Genesis 19), God allows Lot and his family to flee the city of Sodom before it is destroyed, but they are warned not to look back.  Lot’s wife looks back, someone had to do it, and she’s turned into a pillar of salt.


As a kid, this story really freaked me out. One mistake.  No second chances.  No grace.  Pillar of salt.

As an adult, I’ve come to suspect that Lot’s wife did it to herself. Things had been going downhill in Sodom for a long time.  It was not a nice place and the destruction was coming, but God gave her a chance to escape.  He gave her an opportunity for a new beginning. Instead of moving boldly toward, she looked back.

It doesn’t say so, but I suspect this wasn’t a simple glance.  This was someone whose focus was on the ‘then’ vs the ‘now.’

How often do we do this to ourselves? Whether the problem is flagging membership in the contemporary church, the effectiveness of our schools, or gun violence, we go on and on about how things used to be.

I didn’t realize how debilitating this could be until my son said something the other day.  “When people go on about how bad the schools are, and they’re talking about my school, or how pathetic the church is, and this is the church I go to, they make me feel awful. I’m there. I’m doing my best, but somehow I’m not good enough. I’m not giving up on them but they’re pissing me off.”

He wasn’t talking about people who aren’t part of the school or part of the church.  He was talking about people on the inside. Instead of looking for a way to blossom and grow, like Lot’s wife, we look back. Do it too long and we’ll be stuck that way.

It isn’t an easy habit to break, but it helps that I live with a teenager.  With some serious eye rolling on his part, I manage to get myself turned around and looking for the Path that will lead me to where God would have me go, the path to a new tomorrow.


“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
Hebrews 10:24

As  I’ve mentioned, my home church is going through a time of transition.  Our pastor retired and we are in the process of hiring first an interim pastor (think long-term substitute) and then a new pastor.  While we are in this period of transition, sometimes members of our congregation fill the pulpit, leading the service and preaching.  Other weeks, we bring in a pastor from Presbytery.

A few weeks ago, one of the pastors preached on looking forward.  He meant looking forward to what you can do for God vs looking back and resting on your laurels.  “I’ve already served on that committee/helped plan the picnic/sung in the choir.  Now is my time to take it easy.”  But this idea of looking forward has stuck with me as I consider Ruth’s request to continue writing on how we judge others.

Looking forward, we see what could be – new friendships, new chances to serve.

Looking backwards, we see traditions, past hurts and old habits.  They mire us down and harden our hearts (thus the pillar of salt reference).

And I’m as guilty of looking back as the next person in spite of the fact that I know it hardens my heart, especially in one situation.  My problem is that I truly dislike a boy my son has to deal with.  He talks trash in the extreme and strikes out at other kids.  Catch him at it – mid-kick or with an ice chunk flying from his hand – and he’ll look you in the face and lie. “I didn’t do it.”

But I’m also sure that I tend to make the situation worse.  Why?  Because I catch myself looking for his next transgression.

How different would the situation be if I tried to see him as God sees him?  A blessed, if troubled, child.  Someone worthy and deserving of love.  What if, instead of looking back and seeing all of the things he’s done, I looked forward?  What if I saw possibilities instead of past transgressions?  Instead of simply policing him, I might be able to encourage him with an eye to his future.

It isn’t going to be easy, but not many things worth doing are.



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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