I grew up with Bible stories – Adam and Eve, Noah’s ark, God parting the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, the wall of Jericho – but the one that has resonated with me most since my divorce is that of Lot’s wife.
If you remember the story, Lot parted ways from his uncle, the eccentric Abraham, and decided to move to the city of Sodom. Eventually it was revealed to Abraham by three men (two angels in disguise and our Lord Jesus) that Sodom was going to be destroyed by God because of their grievous sins.
Most Badass Angels Ever!!
Abraham, being the great negotiator that he was, convinced God to spare the city if ten righteous men were found. So the two angles disguised as men went to Sodom and naturally, Sodom being the cesspool that it was, were soon accosted. Lot hid them in his house and when the angry mob came to Lot and demanded that the two angels be handed over, Lot refused and offered up his two virgin daughters.
I have to pause for a minute because that part is incredibly enraging. Who offers their daughters to be raped by a bunch of men to save two strangers? When I was younger, this was one of many instances in the Bible that embittered me against the Bible and Christianity.
Women are clearly abused and treated very poorly in many parts of the Bible, and as a woman I find it repulsive. But when I came back to the Bible a couple of years ago, I realized that God never told Lot to do that. The Spirit was not encouraging Lot to do that. That was all on Lot.
Just as God never told Abraham to pass off Sarah as his sister when they entered into foreign lands. The idea that God sanctioned Abraham’s lie that could result in her being placed in a harem and raped is horrific. Thank goodness God never did. That was all on Abraham. Just as God never directed Abraham to sleep with Hagar. That was all on Sarah and Abraham. I guess it’s kind of encouraging that such a flawed man can be so favored by God. Gives the rest of us hope.
Anyhow, I suppose the point is that a majority of the bad things that happen don’t happen because of God but because of man. We are just lucky enough he helps us clean the mess up afterwards.
So where was I? Right, Lot and his family. When ten righteous men could not be found in the whole city of Sodom, its fate was sealed. But because Lot did the right thing (sheltering the angels not offering to sacrifice his daughters) his family was led safely from the city. And as they were fleeing, as fire hailed down from the sky, they were warned not to look back.
Lot’s wife looked back, and because of that, she was turned into a pillar of salt.
This is a picture from The Jehovah Witnesses’ Bible my mother bought for me when I was four. I don’t think she realized it was a JW Bible…
When I was little this fascinated me. What a strange punishment. Why salt? Why not just strike her dead? When I was little, it was a mystery, and the bottom line was when an angel speaks, you’d better listen.
As a woman approaching her middle years, with a wealth of experience filling my coffers, I understand it a little differently. Many people argue whether these stories should be taken literally or figuratively. I mean, it is a little hard to imagine a woman turning into a pile of salt, right? To me, it doesn’t necessarily matter which way you want to take it. The meaning is there either way.
After my divorce I was devastated. I was tormented by all of the mistakes I had made. What if I had done this differently or that. What if I had listened in the first place and not married the man to begin with? But it was not just the bad memories that caused me so much pain. It was also the memories of the good times. The times when our family was together, the times when there was laughter, and unity, and intimacy – times I would never again be able to experience. I had lost them all.
And I cried. More than I ever thought possible. I was so tired of crying I split in two. And I kept hearing that voice. Don’t look back. But how could I not? And so I looked back and I cried. I looked back more and I cried more. And the more I cried, the more Lot’s wife filled my mind. My fellow woman, my sister, tell me. Show me. Teach me.
No, I am not a pillar of salt. I still have arms that move, that can embrace my children, stroke my dog, wave to a friend. I still have legs that can run, that can chase my daughter up the stairs in a game of tickle monster. I have eyes that can blink as the sun stares down, that watch as the clouds in all of their beauty pass by overhead. I am not a pillar of salt. I am still alive.
But every time I look back, my body is suspended as my mind and heart become stuck in a past that can never change. And as the tears fall down, over and over again, I can taste it. I can taste…salt.
I suppose I understand the message behind the story of Lot’s wife now. It was not simply a story about weird punishments you can expect for being disobedient. Like any good father, there is always a lesson in the punishment. The lesson her story has taught me is that there is no life in looking back. It is better to leave behind that which God has taken. As tempting as it is to look back and catch a glimpse of what was, to reminisce about what could have been, and to decipher exactly the reasons it was destroyed, there is no life there.
There are only tears.
There are only pillars of salt.