“And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.
So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it goes.
People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore.”
Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-five
I’ll never forget how I felt the first time I read that. I had just started college and I never knew all of the reasons people hate God.
It made me feel uncomfortable and awkward and, secretly, it made me doubt. What about grace? I know this is from the Old Testament, but could a God who would not extend grace to those wicked men actually have a son named Jesus Christ who is supposed to forgive me for my own faults? Isn’t this how our country has justified the ruthless killings of those we deem “bad” and as a threat? What about the daughters of those men? Did they burn up, too? Did those men even have a chance to change? Why would I want to serve a God who could kill the entire town that this family called home? I think about where I grew up. And I think I would hate God if he did that and if he told me not to look back and remember home.
It took me four years to get this story. Brilliant as he is, Vonnegut doesn’t paint an accurate picture of the glance Lot’s wife gave.
She wasn’t just looking back. She wasn’t reminiscing. She wasn’t taking one last mental picture. She wasn’t turning back to grab every person she could and bring them to safety with her.
She was pining for the people who attempted to break down her family’s front door. She was wishing for the town where those men would have raped her visitors. She was reminiscing for home, where her husband was put in the position to offer their own daughters in place of their visitors. And after weighing all those factors, in her heart she found it a better place to be than where the Lord wanted to lead her.
I think if we are honest with ourselves, we have our own Sodoms and Gomorrahs: the places in life that are difficult to purge even though we know we should. The relationships. The ways to cope. The ways to protect ourselves. I build up these small kingdoms of comfort, even if they slowly kill my spark and my spirit. These are the places where I’m to let sin and doubt and shame beat down my doors–regardless of how it will affect my life and those around me. I get why she was turned into that pillar of salt and why looking back was such a disobedient thing to do. That glance revealed that Lot’s wife would have never been open to accepting the newness of where God was leading her. And the truth is that those men did have plenty of chances to change, but they didn’t. Abraham pleaded with the Lord on their behalf, and the Lord listened (Genesis 18:16-33).
So I’ll never look at this story and think that it gives us reason to say who does and who doesn’t play the role of those men beating at Lot’s door. I’ve been them before, I’m sure of it. No…when I look at this story, I’m going to be reminded that God will do whatever it takes to bring us home with him, even if it means taking us away from what we know and what’s comfortable. I’ll look to this and remember that God doesn’t call me to live in fear or torment or guilt or shame or sin. He wants me, and all of me, to come back home and to bring as many people with me as I can. He wants me to preserve all that is good in this world and point back to him, saying “See! My God IS good!” And He is. He is so good.
It’s scary to leave my comfort. But fear is the heart of no good thing. What doesn’t scare me is God’s intent for my life. So even if I have no idea where the heck he’s leading me, I know this way is better than anything I could have conjured up for myself. Better doesn’t mean easy, but it does mean life to the fullest.
Here’s to not looking back.