By Kathi Pelton
I used to think that my family was unique in the fact that God had called us to constantly live in the place that I call, “the unfamiliar.” Gos has called our family in different seasons to many different regions, states and nations so it is rare for us to be familiar with a place. We have learned to find our sense of stability in God and family since scenery and homes are constantly changing.
Yet, as I look around, I realize that the entire world has become quite unfamiliar to most of the world. People who have lived in the same city and home for decades are experiencing a sense of unfamiliarity even in the most familiar places. The world has changed and there is no going back to what was once normal or familiar.
So, how do we live in this place and not become disoriented, disillusioned or lost? Though my life has prepared me to live in the midst of constant changes, even I have had to press through the emotional chaos of an entire world shifting. I believe that we can learn a lot from the story of Lot’s wife in this hour.
Lot’s wife made her home in Sodom. This place had been her home and it was where her treasures were. Memories of friends and family were there and everything familiar to her was there. Although Sodom had become a place of pride, a place where men and women lived out unnatural desires, a place that withheld help from the poor (and turned away from God), nevertheless, it was where Lot’s wife had put her treasures.
Sodom may sound familiar to many places in the world today? When fire from heaven came down and was destroying Sodom, Lot’s wife looked back at the place she had called home and longed for her treasures and her life there. When she did this, she became a pillar of salt that forever would be found looking back.
We can all admit that the past two years have given us moments of looking back and longing for “what once was.” Lot’s wife couldn’t see the justice of God destroying what had defiled men and taken them far from him— she just saw the place that her treasures were at being destroyed as she ran into the unfamiliar.
I do not know if Lot’s wife was engaged in the sin of that city or if she merely had become so familiar with it that she could live among it without experiencing God’s sorrow over it (forgetting the high eternal price that would be paid by her friends and neighbors). Whatever the case, when she looked back, she was never able to move forward or look forward again.
I have learned in all of my personal transitions and changes that I can carry “in my heart” the precious and pure memories of days gone by. I don’t have to look back at what I’m leaving behind because what is good and precious is carried with me. This posture helps me to move forward without a constant sense of loss or regrets. The longings of yesterday do not become an idol or a god that I give homage to.
I am a very sentimental person and my family is very sentimental as well. If we had our way, we would have remained in the city where our family has lived for generations. We would have picked one house and made a lifetime of memories there and we would dwell on streets that told our story and had our names. But for us, it would have been a strumbling block— our sentimental hearts could have easily made it an idol. This is not to say that God does not call many to plant themselves in one city for many generations, it is merely to say that he chose another way for us. But no matter where or what God has called you to— in these times the unfamiliar has overshadowed even the most familiar. This is a time to move forward— not to look back at even what was good in a way that may have any root of idolatry. It may be subtle but our hearts need to be longing for what is ahead and becoming familiar with the eternal so that we do not get caught tied to the temporal.
We are to be like the wise virgins looking forward— awaiting the arrival of our bridegroom. It is difficult to reconcile our familiar existence and life here on earth as something temporal. We often view heaven as an unknown or unfamiliar place. This is why it is so vital in this hour to become acquainted and familiar with God and his eternal Kingdom. The lack of familiarity with his dwelling place will always cause us to be drawn to look back and long for the temporal.
It also can cause us to filter out what is grievous to God therefore, we become overwhelmed with sorrow when God destroys what is harming the people he created. Over the past few years we have watched devastating fires ravage some of the most beautiful land in our nation, we have watched entire cities flood, hurricanes and natural disasters take what was home from many people— and some have looked back and become like pillars of salt in their grief and sorrow.
What I am sharing is a call to ask the Spirit of God to separate your heart ties from things that would cause you to despair or faint in the midst of an ever-changing world and environment. We can love and appreciate the beauty of memories, places and people without making them gods or idols. My life has been a long process of dealing with sentimental idols that attached themselves to my heart. They held me back from longing for the city whose maker is the Lord and for my Bridegroom to be my greatest longing—which keeps my eyes ahead— not behind.
To summarize— let the unfamiliar draw you into becoming familiar with that which is eternal!
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
May our treasures and our hearts be found in heaven! This will keep our eyes looking forward— not back.
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