What do you do when looking back seems safer than looking forward?
One summer day, I listened to hard words from a dear woman I had loved and admired for nearly twenty years. We were seated in her small room in a nursing home. My grandson was exploring every nook, cranny, and light switch (and eating one of the cookies we had brought for her!), and I asked her how she liked her new home.
“It’s hard,” she said. “They’re good to me here, but I’m at the end of my life. It’s hard to realize… emotionally.”
The words hung in the air, and I wanted to deny them, to beautify them with a neat little bow of comfort and joy. But that would not be fair, because she is right. At ninety-plus, she is unsteady and unable to care for herself or live in her own home.
This is hard. She is nearing the end of her life. So I was quiet and nodded, waiting for her to go on, and she did, sharing some of her concerns, repeating herself, and circling back around. But then, she stopped and smiled and touched my grandson’s small hand, declaring:
“I have wonderful memories.”
My sweet friend has come to the point in her life when looking back is so much more satisfying and encouraging than looking ahead. I can identify. Navigating life with Parkinson’s disease, knowing that it is relentlessly degenerative and that I will not be aging as gracefully as I had envisioned, it’s tempting to blot out any thought of the future, to focus on a more glorious and vigorous past.
I’ve been challenged by Christine Caine’s new book to be careful, to look with suspicion upon this self-protective strategy. In Don’t Look Back, the story of Lot’s wife becomes a cautionary tale for those tempted to look back, to live in a more lovely past, to reject a change we didn’t see coming.
Although Lot’s wife is an unnamed character in the Bible, when she takes the stage for a chaotic moment in Genesis 19, we find her running from the God-ordained destruction of her hometown of Sodom. And in case we’re tempted to write the story off as unimportant Old Testment lore, the words of Jesus put a stop to our hubris:
“Remember Lot’s wife.” Luke 17:32
Well, she looked back when she was told not to. And her body turned into salt–a preservative, and a startling image for someone who has become stuck in the past, committed to preserving a time gone by.
In Don’t Look Back by Christine Caine, the story of Lot’s wife becomes a cautionary tale for those tempted to look back, to live in a more lovely past, to reject a change we didn’t see coming.
Believers are called into a delicate balancing act–to learn from our past, even to mourn the end of an era without becoming stuck there. Christine Caine shares her own story as reassurance that she’s writing from personal experience. I came away from the book with three vivid images of hope to encourage YOU in your longings and to help you fight the temptation to linger in the past when life is going forward all around you:
- God is holding your hand.
The angels of the Lord who were sent to rescue Lot and his family, in an act of mercy, “seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand” (Genesis 19:16). Even on unfamiliar territory, God has not abandoned you, and he will continue to meet you in the pages of Scripture, in the wisdom of godly friends, and in the unfolding circumstances of your life–if you will choose to see.
If you’re facing an unwanted change, God has not abandoned you. What evidence can you spot today that God is holding your hand through the change?
- When one season ends, a new season begins.
Transition is hard, and Caine gives full permission (if you need it) to mourn the death of dreams, hopes, plans, goals, relationships, and expectations. And then she shares that “in all the transitions I’ve lived through, I’ve learned that just because something has died, God’s promises, plans, and purposes for my life have not. In fact they are still very much alive.”
It takes a muscular faith to look for resurrection in the place that feels like death. Christine offers the gift of words, a borrowed prayer to get us started along the road to acceptance:
“God, I recognize that I am stuck, looking back and longing for _______________________. I want to be free in you and free for you. Please give me the grace, by your Spirit and in your strength, to take steps I need to take to get unstuck and move forward, with bold faith, into the future you have for me.”
- We can view change as an interruption or as an invitation.
We get to choose.
I don’t know what life in Sodom was like for Lot’s wife. I’m sure relocation was not on her list for that particular day, but that became the game plan, and she resisted. Jesus urges us to remember so that we can do better.
I confess to a certain curiosity about my own future on my better days. Knowing that God is sovereign and good, how will he put that on display for my family as he equips me for life with a chronic illness? How will God intervene to teach patience and endurance to a woman who has lived most of her life with hair aflame?
What feels like an interruption to my well-laid plans may just be an invitation to something I could never have envisioned on my own.
And How About You?
What changes tempt you to long for the past, to live in hopes of things getting “back to normal again,” when normal has moved on and won’t be back? How can this community of readers pray for you today?
Holding You in the Light,
Michele Morin is a reader, writer, speaker, and gardener who does life with her family on a country hill in Maine. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for thirty years, and together they have four sons, four daughters-in-love, and five adorable grandchildren. Michele is a proud member of The Redbud Writer’s Guild, and has shared her thoughts with joy at Desiring God, (in)courage, The Perennial Gen, The Englewood Review, Living By Design, The Gospel Coalition, and elsewhere. As a regular contributor to The Joyful Life Magazine, it’s her privilege to have shared insights and encouragement accumulated over 27 years of mothering.