Don’t Look Back in Regret Thus Paralyzing Your God-Given Capacity to PreserveOn October 7, 2018 by Amy Burgin
Adults and children gather in the living room, lining up kitchen chairs against the fireplace. The older girls stand, dancing their arms while we sing “This is Amazing Grace.” Little girls look up to the big girls and imitate. One mother cups her hands around her little girl’s, synchronizing little arms in the dance. My girls are older now and no longer join in the tradition of Sunday night fellowship. I study my 13-year-old son, elbows on knees, leaning forward – God, he’s gorgeous – with his perfect proportions, sandy hair, blue eyes, and tan skin. His shoulders have broadened this year and he sports a six pack he sometimes brags about. He seems content and his lips move slightly to the song. My gaze wanders to my husband standing behind the couch. He’s aged. I wasn’t always sure we’d make it this far, but after twenty years, we’re definitely a package deal.
Older children run off to play and adults make more music before we delve into the night’s topic, parenting. When parenting with a spouse, unity is best, but Jon and I haven’t always had that.
Across from me, a little girl lays along her mother’s thighs, head at her knees. My girls are too big for me now. I can’t hold them any more and I’ll never be able to hold them like that again.
My mind fills with wrongs and wounds while regret rolls in, heavy and thick. The old list of should-haves drown my heart, lower my head and fall wet from my eyes.
I should have prayed more.
I should have been more courageous with Jon and spoke up more.
I should have been more disciplined.
I should have treasured the baby years more.
I should have treasured the elementary years more.
I should have treasured homeschooling more.
I should not have home-schooled.
I should have done more Bible studies with the children.
I should have remained a career woman.
I should have kept the house more clean.
I should have decorated the house more.
The should-haves shift to blame as the list grows ominously.
Jon should have…
Jon should have…
Jon should have…
We screwed it all up and now it’s too late. It’s all over when they’re ages 19, 17 and 13. I’m thankful to discover a box of tissues on the end table beside me. I feel stupid and try not to cry or draw attention to myself, but the tears fall heavy out of my control.
The next day, driving into work on Bandera Road at 7:45 AM, I remind the Lord I’m his obedient daughter. I will obey whatever he has for me. All I need is his instruction for this day. His faithful, familiar voice is like honey to my ears, “Don’t look back like Lot’s wife.”
God saved Lot’s family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the midst of the escape, she looked back in direct disobedience to God’s instruction and consequently turned into a pillar of salt. “I don’t get it,” I retort, “whether it’s literal or metaphorical is irrelevant, but you chose a pillar of salt to describe her. Why? Why not a clump of clay, or a mound of dirt, or a pile of ashes? I mean, salt is a good thing, used for flavor and preservation.”
“Yes,” his voice satisfies, “she had within her a great capacity to bring flavor and preservation to her family, but because she looked back, that great capacity was paralyzed.”
I am stunned by these words. What did Lot’s daughters do? They resorted to a perverted form of preservation. They put their father into a drunken stupor and had sexual exchanges with him in order to impregnate themselves and preserve their family line.
I have never considered myself to be like Lot’s wife, but I see it now. I always assumed she looked back in lust, but we don’t know why she looked back. Maybe she looked back in regret. Like me.
I look back and grieve all these strange shadow-casting should-haves,
some that come with the advantage of hindsight,
some that are a sick form of indecisiveness on the wrong side of a decision,
and others that deceptively bait me into playing the ancient blame game.
Listing them exposes their ridiculousness. They don’t smell like truth with their disparaging discrepancies. I should have home schooled AND not home schooled? No wonder I felt stupid last night.
The Lord pursued us.
The Lord saved us.
The Lord has us.
The Lord has always had us.
My heart fills with joy, my head lifts and truth sparkles from my eyes as I continue the drive to work, now on Loop 1604. I have within me a God-given capacity to preserve God’s saving work in our lives. I will not paralyze it by looking back in regret. The grip of regret loses its hold. I am free.
Lord, every time I bring my mournful past to you, you speak kindness and pull me forward. It’s one of the things I so love and appreciate about you. You truly are a wonderful counselor. I wonder what kind of regret the Apostle Paul dealt with having been present and possibly in charge of Stephen’s stoning and other painful persecutions. Could this have been the thorn in his side? I wonder if regretful memories flashed before his eyes when he said, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Help me to be like Paul, straining forward to what lies ahead as you pull me by the hand. Thank you for pulling me by the hand! I don’t want to be like Lot’s wife, paralyzing the gift of preservation you have given me. I want to honor you and receive the gift you have given me. Help me to remember the past rightly, celebrating your mighty hand, your outstretched arm. Help me remember rightly in such a way that I partner well with you as you extend your hand to others. Why would I mourn? For you have saved me!
Genesis 19:16-17 [NKJV] “And while Lot lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city…and he said, ‘Don’t look behind you or stay anywhere on the plain…'”
Genesis 19:26 [NKJV] “But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”
Genesis 45:5 [NKJV] “But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”
Exodus 13:3 [NKJV] And Moses said to the people: “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place.”
Psalm 71:17 – 18 [NKJV]”Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.”
Luke 17:32 – 33 [NKJV] “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”