Looking Back

by teresalaynebennett

photo of sculpture by Sir William Thorncraft (1877) of Lot's Wife

Lot’s Wife, William Thorncraft

You’ve heard about Lot’s wife. She gets the dubious honor of being the person whose name we call up when we want to remind ourselves of the futility of looking back.

Her story comes from Genesis, the very first book in the Bible. Lot and his whole family had been warned to get out of Dodge (Sodom) – by an angel straight from God, no less – before it was ferociously wiped off the face of the earth. Furthermore, they were told NOT TO LOOK BACK at the very unsavory place where they’d been living. But Lot’s wife just couldn’t resist one, last, longing look at the city she’d called home for a few years.

I have no doubt her thought processes sounded like this: “Where’s the harm in one last look? I raised my kids there. I’ve just left everything I own there.” (Or some equally squishy variant.) I’m pretty sure of this because Lot’s wife and I are kindred spirits. I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life looking back and – what’s even more dimwitted – rigorously justifying my mental looking-back exercises. Though my exercises haven’t been as unproductive as her last look (turning into a pillar of salt*), they’ve been almost as debilitating at times.

Can you relate?

Of course you can. We all do this, some more than others. We all look back and second-guess our behavior and our decisions. It’s human nature. The smart thing is to nip that very human tendency in the bud.

But do I do what’s smart? Do I do what I know to do? Nooooo, because, as I’ve said before, knowing and doing are two separate things. Nope. I just keep asking my well-worn what-if questions.

What if I’d known ____________?

What if I’d been more _____________?

What if I hadn’t ____________?

What if “they” had ____________?

What if “they” hadn’t ______________?

What if there had been _________________?

Asking these what-if questions would be time well spent IF I could get in a time capsule, travel back in time, and be guaranteed a do-over. But we don’t usually get do-overs: we usually get to soldier on from where we are now. Wallowing in what-if scenarios very definitely is time not well spent.

Paying attention
to lessons learned, however,
is time well spent.

You knew I’d get to this eventually, since it’s the whole point of this blog.

  • Pay attention to the lessons we can learn from our life experiences – pleasant or unpleasant – and move on.
  • Pay attention to those around us, learn from their life experiences, and move on.
  • Pay attention to what’s happening in the world at large, and move on.

We have two – and only two (making them easy to remember) – operative principles here:

  • Pay attention.
  • Move on.

As Lot’s wife’s representative in the 21st century, I could use a few pointers. I’m getting better at the pay-attention part – sort of. The moving-on stage? Not so much. Any tips?

©2015, Teresa Bennett

*There are some interesting theories about this salt business, if you’re interested. Whatever it means, we know she was absent from that point on in the story. We also know an absentee wife and mother is pretty much an ineffectual wife and mother.

red box with white text: "...one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on...." Philippians 3:13, NIV Bible

Christian-Persecutor Paul’s plan: move on.