Many years ago I engaged a church member in a conversation about an obscure verse found in Luke 17:32. The verse simply read, “Remember Lot’s wife.” These words were spoken by Jesus in the context of a teaching he was giving about his return. The original hearer would have heard the phrase and recalled the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Genesis 19) where the cities were destroyed following Lot and his family’s escape. According to the story, Lot and his family were to leave the city without looking back, lest they be turned into pillars of salt. Well, Lot’s wife didn’t listen to the warning and subsequently was turned into a pillar of salt. So in our conversation we talked about what it meant to stand at the crossroads of a difficult decision and following the Lord’s will to the best of our knowledge, without reservation or regret. In other words, those kinds of decisions have to be made whole heartedly with singular focus on what lies ahead. And as illustrated by Lot’s wife, that can be a hard thing to do.
Old guys like me have practices and rituals that, in my case anyway, serve well and merit repetition. One of those rituals has been to find a verse in the Bible that speaks to my current situation in life and then use it as a sort of guidepost for the year. In 2021, my verse has been Proverbs 15:24, which says, “The path of life leads upward for the wise, they leave the grave behind” (NLT). This verse has become a daily mantra and a source of reflection.
I love the book of Proverbs and read it daily, and I love the contrasting nature of this particular verse. Here, the writer contrasts movement and stagnation; life and death; up and down; wisdom and foolishness; and forward and backwards. And the principle that I’m learning this year, based on this verse, is that break throughs are always break withs. In order to move forward, some things by necessity have to be left behind. In many of those cases the things that need to be left behind are not life giving. They belong in the grave with resounding finality.
One thing we all share in common is the need to be wise and walk away from those graves toward things that are life giving. Maybe it’s an unhealthy work environment or a toxic relationship. Maybe it’s a proud attitude or habitual behavior. Maybe it is the inability to uncouple from past successes that serve as present day limitations, keeping you affixed to the “good old days” instead of living in the fulness of the present moment. In the words of one athlete last week, “When you focus on the past, that’s just ego.” These examples are just a small sampling.
I don’t think it’s healthy or even possible to simply “move on” from past difficulties. To me, that implies one is going to continue to carry the emotional baggage of the past. I do think it is possible to “move forward.” Moving forward suggests that the past has been dealt with and that the time has come to embark on a new journey, assuming one is willing to walk away and walk toward.
It’s been an interesting 12 months in the Deatrick house. But God, my family, and a team of friends have consistently and patiently walked with me. As a result, I’m not just standing, I’m moving forward with passion and energy toward things that are life giving. I am forever grateful for your listening ears and words of insight. I can fully embrace the future, because the past doesn’t need me anymore.