Lot’s wife is one of those Biblical characters we usually don’t think about very much. If we do, it is usually with a very negative impression. She is given no name of her own and is mentioned only three times in all of Scripture. The first time is in the book of Genesis. Angels came to rescue Lot and his family from the city of Sodom which God was about to destroy. The angels warned them, “Flee for your life! Don’t look back or stop anywhere on the Plain” (Gen 19:17). Yet, as they were leaving, “Lot’s wife looked back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt” (Gen 19:26).
Lot’s wife is also referenced in the book of Wisdom as “a disbelieving soul, a standing pillar of salt” (Wis 10:7). Lastly, Jesus speaks of her in the Gospel of Luke. He was teaching of the coming of the Son of Man – that He would come in glory when least expected. “On that day, a person who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house must not go down to get them, and likewise a person in the field must not return to what was left behind. Remember the wife of Lot. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it” (Luke 17:31-35).
In Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with her Past, Cheryl Dickow offers the following reflection on Lot’s wife:
In her grief, or because of her curiosity and emotions, she made the fatal mistake to look back at what was being left behind – even when she knew better.
Our lives are packed with the same predicament: God tries to move us forward but we keep looking back. . . Although looking back so that we are able to move forward in a positive way is certainly commendable, for the most part we tend to look back unproductively. And, like Lot’s wife, our lives are often in ruins because of this instinct, this longing, and this habit to look over our shoulder at what ‘was.’
. . . Did Lot’s wife suffer the ultimate consequences for that brief glimpse of what she was leaving behind? She did. And don’t we, when we nurture that part of ourselves that finds comfort in our own sorrows, or our own martyrdoms, also suffer consequences? We absolutely do. Are they the ultimate consequences? They are in that they keep us from living for God’s glory in the here and now. They hinder us from the joy that God has in mind for our lives. And in that way, they continually alter our relationship with God.
Dickow offers much food for thought. She puts Lot’s wife in a whole new light. Any one of us could be that woman who turned into a pillar of salt.
I know that I am guilty of looking back. Even when I know I am doing what God wants, I tend to mourn what I am leaving behind. Like Lot’s wife, I’m scared to leave my comfort zone; scared to move forward into a new land.
My conversation with God tends to go something like this: “God, I know you are asking me to do this and I will, although I’m kind of angry with you right now, because I was happy where I was and now you are taking it all away. I know that life will be okay in time. You’ve upended my life before and, in the end, it has worked out for the good. I know I need to trust. I’m sorry I doubt you. I’m sorry I’m scared. Please help me.”
Yet, I keep trying. Thankfully, God seems to have softened a bit since the days of Lot. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure the world would have many pillars of salt. He gives us more than one chance. He forgives and invites us to try again. And so, the struggle to keep moving forward without looking back continues for another day. Perhaps, with His help, one of these days, I’ll get it right.