Genesis 19:26 – But Lot's wife looked back and she became a pillar of salt. (NIV)
Philippians 3:13b-14 – Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
I once had a horse named Willie, though not for very long! In fact, Willie lived at our place for only a few days. Why? Because he kept breaking out of the corral and running home. Home, unfortunately, was only a short distance away, and Willie was able to both smell and hear his other horse friends calling to him from his former pasture. In the end, Willie returned whence he had come.
Sometimes, forgetting what is behind and moving forward into a new way of life to which God has called us can be very difficult. If it involves physical change, it may require giving up old friends and building new relationships; learning different skills or a new vocation; adjusting to geographical differences and a new dwelling. Any one of these changes can be very taxing.
If the call is spiritual, learning to view ourselves in the unfamiliar light of His love and grace, and learning a new way to perceive and understand our world and existence may at first be disorienting and even frightening, filled with confusion and uncertainty as our identity transforms. Old habits begin to fall away and new ones are donned. Friends and relationships change, and sometimes, our life's work may take a turn in the road. Amidst all of these good and necessary changes, however, we, like Willie, may have a great desire from time to time to run back to wherever we have come from. Running back, however, can have dire consequences.
When God sent His angels to rescue Lot and his entire family from the disastrous judgment which was about to fall upon Sodom and Gomorrah, they were warned to flee for their lives and not to look back, but Lot's wife could not resist. Her memories of what she was leaving behind were too much. She turned to gaze behind and became a pillar of salt. Her forward journey was halted, never again to resume.
Memory is a gift from God. Like all gifts, however, it can be used for good or bad. Memory can help us to learn, to change, to move forward. It can also bring us to a screeching halt. Holding on to the past, dwelling there, believing that what is gone was better than what God now offers, reveals lack of faith, trust, and gratitude: lack of faith that God's way is best; lack of trust in His power to see us through; and lack of gratitude for new gifts He is blessing us with right now.
Willie returned to his old way of life. Lot's wife never attained to her new one. Memory interrupted their course for the future, they are both locked in their past.
What will we let memory do for us? Draw us back, perhaps to remain there forever — or push us forward on to maturity, ever pressing onward toward the goal to which God has called us in Christ Jesus?
Prayer: Father God, change is so difficult. We want to shirk it, pull away, more often than we desire to embrace it. We need Your power today to enable us to reach out and grab hold of Your plans for our life with strength and dignity, hope and grace. Enable us today, Lord, to press on toward the goal in Christ Jesus to which You have called us. In His name, we pray. Amen.