Reflecting on the Past

There is a parable in the Bible about a man named Lot (Genesis 19).  Most of you probably know it. His family was spared from the destruction of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah but there were conditions. When they fled, protected by angels, his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. He was left with two daughters who later seduced him to keep the family name going.  It is quite a disturbing story but it got me to thinking.

The family was offered mercy under the conditions they would not hesitate to leave and would not look back.  They were told the city would be destroyed and God would not show mercy for those who stayed.  Yet, his wife could not resist looking back despite the mercy offered her, despite being protected by angels. She became useless as a result.  This reminds me of how we think on our past and dwell on regrets.

Perhaps there was joy and comfort in the past.  We may build up those memories and cling to them like fairy tales. We may want to retreat back to that place and relive those moments.  Fondly remembering the past is one thing, frequently yearning for a repeat of it is another.

All of us make mistakes.  Some of us have pasts that may seem like Sodom and Gomorrah.  We may have done terrible things, knowing they were unequivocally wrong or even illegal. Or we may have been self-centered and neglected those who needed us. We  may have hurt people – deliberately or otherwise.  We may have deceived people to protect our own interests. We may feel ashamed.  We may want to turn back the clock and change our behavior.  We may even blame our mistakes on the troubles we face today.

While we should learn from the past, regretting it serves no purpose.  We cannot change it.  We can offer apologies for our mistakes but we cannot control the way others feel about it.   We can only accept God’s mercy and use the lessons learned to become better people. Other people make mistakes too.  We must forgive them to know peace. Lot’s wife was protected by angels, offered mercy, and yet still turned back.  She became a useless pillar of salt and her family suffered as a result.

We must move forward without hesitation. There is a reason we are here, today, in this moment. If we reflect too heavily on our pasts, we steal time and joy away from the present.  We can make the present moments useless instead of productive and positive. We should not let the past steal our joy today.  Lately, this is a lesson I need to remember.