Memorial Stones: Looking Back to Hope

Welcome to September 2014 “In Word & Image” at The Writer’s Reverie!

Each week I explore monthly themes using Scripture combined with a visual and a devotional thought!

Ruminate with me.

Be inspired in your heart.

Be captivated by His beauty.

Be enriched in the timeless treasury of His gifts.

Be challenged to go forth with purpose and live for Him.

SEPTEMBER THEME: Memorial Stones

Looking Back to Hope

Don’t look back!

Keep your eyes on the road!

Keep pedaling!

I was about seven years old and that summer morning is set like a memorial stone in my mind. The training wheels were off and I was riding a two-wheeled bicycle for the first time! Mom kept repeating those three commands as I wobbled, unsteady, on the stone strewn street in front of our house.

Don’t look back!

Keep your eyes on the road!

Keep pedaling!

Good advice. I tried hard to obey. I wanted to look back from the road to see mom’s face, hoping she was proud of me.

But, pride goes before a fall and in this case – literally. Every time I looked back to see if mom was watching me, and didn’t pay attention to where I was going, I lost my balance. My feet would slip off the pedals and confusion would set in. Rather than my legs being of one mind, working in harmony as I pedaled, they flailed about.

When I looked back to see if mom was watching – I fell. But, I was determined to ride a big girl bike. No more baby training wheels for me! After the bumps and bruises – and thankful for second chances – the lesson was learned, and I approached my two-wheeler the wiser.

Eventually, of course, I became proficient whether mom was watching or not. There was no looking back on those baby training wheels! I had left that behind me and was confidently pedaling forward into all the new freedoms of being a big-bike girl! I left the shame of training wheels and needing mom’s proud attentions to fully embrace the glory and adventure being so mobile would afford me.

No looking back, I kept my eyes on the “growing-up” road and kept pedaling forward. Ever forward.

2012_06_16_10_58_03

“Don’t look back!” the angel commanded as he swiftly took hold of Lot and his family.

“Run for your lives! And don’t look back or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away!”

Genesis 19:17 NLT

Good advice in light of the circumstances. Lot tried hard to obey.

But, in the Genesis account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the angel had to practically drag Lot and his family out of the doomed cities. God was keeping a promise to Abraham to deliver his nephew and family from the judgement to come.

Tragically, Lot and company had their feet in two different canoes. No wonder it was difficult for them to wholly obey the command to flee the sin and perversion of their home. Being of two minds makes for instability. It’s hard to live a balanced life when you’re feet are trying to go in two directions at the same time. But, there was no time to waste. There would be no second chances.

And – don’t look back.

There was no hope to be found in these cities ripe with wickedness and engulfed in sin.

Sin – that was about to be judged.

But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.

Genesis 19:32 NLT

Lot and his family didn’t take the angel’s warning too seriously. His wife probably complained the whole way out of the city limits, trying to figure out why Lot was listening to these two crazy men claiming to be from God. She did not ask to be separated from her home. She just couldn’t NOT look back. She heard the fire fall and may have been curious to see the epic destruction. 

But, I think the reason she looked back was more than morbid curiosity. She looked back . . . with longing, giving regard to what she had left behind, in her heart.

That was the point – and why she ended a pillar of salt.

A monument. Petrified in death. Nameless. Known only as “Lot’s Wife.” A statue marking a moment in history – His Story.

One. Giant. Memorial. Stone. Lot's wife, pillar of salt

She didn’t keep her eyes on the road before her.

She didn’t pedal forward.

“Remember what happened to Lot’s wife! If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.”

Luke 17:33-34 NLT

Jesus said that. He was admonishing people to not look back upon, place high regard, or give attention to their old self-centered life when the Lord calls them to His new God-centered life. It was not so much the act of looking back at the old ways and days – but the looking back and wanting the old ways and days of sin and a worldly lifestyle – over the gift of true life in God.

Oddly enough – Jesus makes His point by directing his audience to LOOK BACK.

At the memorial stone of Lot’s wife.

What she represented.

The lesson learned there.

The act of God done there.

Looking Back on the GOOD Old Days

The idea of looking back on “the old days” or “the way things used to be” is met with rolling eyes by a youth obsessed contemporary society. To many, “looking back” is akin to being “stuck in the mud” – not worthy to be given much regard or attention. It’s not about yesterday. It’s all about today. Everything today is better than yesterday, after all. And the best is yet to come!

Well, maybe.

Having once taught history in middle school classrooms, it broke my heart to see so many young people bored with the subject. They would roll their eyes and sigh, “What does this have to do with me?”

How could I convince these proud adolescent minds, who already knew everything, that history – His Story – has EVERYTHING to do with them!

So long as they learn the lessons well. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

But, mostly – that which is good and ought to remain so and not forgotten or swept away by some untried trend of popular and often self-centered imagination.

The Bible speaks of Lot’s wife being warned to not look back, and Jesus warns that a disciple wishing to follow Him – putting his hand to the plow, but looking back – is not fit for the Kingdom of God, (Luke 9:62). These admonishments against looking back on old ways had to do with the definition of those old ways. Looking back on, giving attention to and regarding those things unworthy of keeping in the present or taking into the future.

On the other hand, the Bible is abundant in admonishments to look back! Remember the former things. Build physical memorials to mark the place of something significant and worthy of recall and attention so one does not forget. In the present. Going into the future.

Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’

Isaiah 46:9-10

History is filled with memorial stones marking moments in His Story for the sole purpose of reminding us of Who God is – and His purposes in our lives and in the world. His Story of His Goodness and Faithfulness – worthy of looking back upon with great regard and attention.

In looking back, we build our Faith – so in Him, we will HOPE.

hope, Hebrews 11:1-2, memorial stones

Hebrews 11 is a history lesson of God showing Himself mighty to His people – and His people standing steadfast in faith for the HOPE that was in them. Looking back, the church found their present faith infused with hope as they remembered the history of God working in, through, and for His people. After thirty verses reviewing the exploits of Genesis and how God worked “by faith” here and “by faith” there, the writer of Hebrews seems overwhelmed with His Story’s examples to look back upon . . . and HOPE:

How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their HOPE in a better life after the resurrection.

Hebrews 11:32-35 NLT

Anytime the Word of God admonishes us to “not look back” it is in relation to looking back – turning back – to sin and unbelief. However, looking back and remembering the works of God in bygone days is constantly encouraged. Like Israel before them, the church was exhorted to  . . .

And, HOPE.

Trying times come. Nostalgia is a powerful longing for a past time of better days. A desire to return to more worthy things. The value of looking back on those good things increases as we age. It is then that youthful arrogance gives way to wisdom gained. Even so, in each generation we tend to find ourselves – and our culture – eating from the food troughs of poor choices from our past.

Because we gave little attention to history lessons.

Looking back . . . to learn that which is GOOD.

Looking back . . . to remember GOD.

Looking back . . . to gain HOPE.

This was the pattern in countless psalms.

The psalmist cries out in distress – a fallen soul, lost and fearful. Until – he LOOKS BACK upon the His Story of God in the earth and in his life. He recounts the Memorial Stones of history – often in detail from Genesis through the history of Israel – naming persons and places and times. Just meditating on the wonders of God in each instance builds his faith – producing HOPE.

You don’t let me sleep.
I am too distressed even to pray!
I think of the good old days,
long since ended,
when my nights were filled with joyful songs.

I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?
Is his unfailing love gone forever?
Have his promises permanently failed?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion?
And I said, “This is my fate;
the Most High has turned his hand against me.”

But then I recall all you have done, O LORD;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

O God, your ways are holy.
Is there any god as mighty as you?
You are the God of great wonders!
You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.

Psalm 77:4-15 NLT

Though not included here, Psalm 77 continues with an itemized list of historical tales meant to inject HOPE in the hearer.

This is why I love old things. I collect them. I keep them throughout my house. They are my Memorial Stones – marking bygone eras when simplicity of heart and lifestyle was met with the provision of God. I hold fast to my own history – His Story – with souvenirs of God’s rescue of me when I had need. Looking upon these tangible representations as markers of God’s goodness in my life, brings HOPE for the future.

A future we seem to be pedaling towards, faster and faster. Will my little feet be able to stay on the pedals, or will they slip off when the going gets rough and I look back for all the wrong reasons. Like Lot’s wife. Or worse – like Israel looking back and desiring Egypt again . . .

No. I’ll just make myself a cup of tea in a vintage teacup, put some 17th century chamber music on the CD player and look back with some Bible reading – and a passage or two from a 19th century Dicken’s novel . . .

hope, Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Challenge: Make time to stop, remember, and be directed by the goodness of the Lord in your life. Your rushing, crushing, crisis-prone world needs the respite. God has something to minister to you in the place of remembrance, looking back . . .

If you humble yourself with a heart of gratitude and meet Him there . . .

With eyes to see and ears to hear . . .

And arms open wide for His embrace.

This is the 2nd installment of Word & Image September 2014: Memorial Stones: Looking Back to Hope

Click below for all the posts in the series as they are published:

Memorial Stones: Trustworthy Rocks

Memorial Stones: Looking Back to Hope

Memorial Stones: Pathways to Peace – Sweetened with Joy

NEXT WEEK – Memorial Stones: Pathways to Peace – Sweetened with Joy

  Miss Kathy, writer's reverie, butterfly

Sharing Memorial Stones: Looking Back to Hope this week with:

Judith at Whole Hearted Wednesdays

 Tell His Story with Jennifer Dukes Lee

 Lyli at Thought Provoking Thursdays at 3D Lessons 4Life

 Hope in Every Season Homemaking Party

 Laura on Faith Filled Friday at Missional Women

 Essential Things Friday Devotions

 Fellowship Fridays at Christian Mommy Blogger

 Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays

My Fresh Brewed Life with Barbie – Weekend Brew

Janis at Sunday Stillness

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Comments

  1. Kathryn, this is so good to remember (pardon the pun). So many good nuggets here. The only subject my son liked in high school was history because he saw the value of “learning from our mistakes” (his words). Too often, I jump forward without remembering what I’ve learned. I love your illustrations.

  2. Thank you for this powerful words!

  3. Thank you for sharing these words at The Weekend Brew!

  4. Thank you so much for these encouraging words today. I needed to be reminded not to look back. My life is moving forward into a new season and I’m not sure I like what’s ahead, so the temptation to look back comes kind of natural, just like looking back to see if your mom was looking.

I would love to hear from you--share your thoughts!

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