The Path to Salt or Light

In Genesis 13, Lot and his Uncle Abraham choose two different pasture lands for their large and prosperous flocks. Lot chose to live among the cities of the plans with Mrs. Lot and the family, pitching his tent near Sodom, a place with a wicked reputation, while Abraham took land in Canaan.

God had seen Sodom’s sin and planned to destroy the city…but Abraham pleaded with God, hoping He would save the city if there were just a few righteous people. After God sent angels to Sodom, and they were almost raped by the men of the city, the angels said God would not spare Sodom. But if the family left immediately, they could escape.

Lot and Mrs. Lot seemed to drag their feet as they faced the challenge of leaving their home. Despite numerous warnings – such as “Don’t look back”…“Do not stop”…“Flee”…the angels had to grab them by the hands and pull them away to avoid being caught up in the destruction.

So they fled…and as the city perished behind them, Mrs. Lot – tragically – looked back. The result? She turned into a pillar of salt.

I often have wondered why she looked back. After all, the city was an evil place and under God’s judgment. How could there be anything of worth to look back upon? And yet she stopped, turned, and looked back. Was Mrs. Lot was just curious? Was she just pining for her lost past in a place of familiarity? Did she feel a sense of emptiness because she could not take all of her belongings with her? Or perhaps it was just a sense of sadness at leaving behind some friends? Or maybe…just maybe…it was easier to look back, rather than face her fear of an unknown future.

Obviously, we can only surmise all the reasons that Mrs. Lot looked back, but she did… and with that single act of disobedience, her story and her life come to an abrupt end.

I’ve been thinking about Mrs. Lot’s story these past few weeks, wondering what lessons I might glean from her. Certainly, if God gives me some clear instructions, I should obey Him – not just in word, but in action. God also reminds me that He is my escape route, often rescuing me from my poorly-chosen ideas or behaviors that would hold me back from the life He has for me.

For almost 14 months Bruce and I prayed specifically that God would clearly show us the next step for our lives. After all that waiting, we were excited when God directed us to Oregon to be a part of a new church family here.

But thinking about change, and then experiencing it, are not the same thing. In my mind, I thought within a month or so I would feel settled. Obviously it’s been too long since I’ve moved! I forgot how long it takes to acclimate to something new. Of course there’s the first rush of excitement as you meet new people and explore new places. But after the sense of “brand new” fades, you discover that you still are trying to discover how and where you fit. That can lead to a sense of disquiet; a sense of unrest. It can produce doubts and questions.

And a heart that harbors doubts and anxiety is easy prey for that whisper, “look back”. Look back to the friends you miss. Look back to a house and a familiar routine. Look back, because the life you knew is there. Life as you want it is there. But this message is a lie. And if I let my mind embrace that deception, it becomes self-destructive. I cannot look back and I cannot go back because God has called us here. Our life now is here. And part of the lie is this: our life in Fullerton had changed, and the siren song of my memory does not fit with the reality of the past couple of years.

The wonderful friends in my life were moving on in their careers and in their experiences, while I was in a season of waiting and praying for the next step. We had left behind our church and our ministries. Our place…my place…in the world of Fullerton was gone. I had been changed by my journey, and I no longer was the same person. I needed to move on and God had prepared me to move on. 

But pining for a rose-colored past, and a fear of the unknown future, can cause me to become paralyzed in the present.

Life seems very different now, but it’s been very different for at least the past two years. And it is these seasons of “different” that turn life into an adventure and an opportunity; a time for new growth and new life. A time to increasingly learn how to live by faith by looking forward...not backward. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily
entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith….
[Hebrews 12:1-2a]

Mrs. Lot’s tragic story reminds me that God’s call is not to look back and try to recapture a past whose chapter is closed. (After all, who wants to be a pillar of salt?) Instead, my loving Father invites me to look forward into my new adventure with Him, and to bask in the joy of being a recipient of, and a reflector of, His light.

One day at a time. One step at a time.

- Julie

Starting Over

We spent 25 years building a life in Fullerton, California…and we packed it all up in just 4 weeks. We watched our possessions head off in a moving van, then we drove north (an adventure in itself, filled with the usual White-family trials and travails of a road trip) and arrived at our new home in Springfield, Oregon.

Unlike our old 1950’s-era, ranch-style tract home in SoCal, our new home is a 1910 farmhouse on an acre of land. We are just a mile from the church, conveniently located near shopping and city centers, yet it feels like we live in the country. The furniture we have acquired over the years consists mostly of antiques, so Julie commented that our stuff looked more appropriate here than in our old home…and she’s right! Much of our furniture is about the same age as our house. We love it’s charm and character, and the huge trees we can see out of virtually every window.

We arrived with fall at its peak, and the autumn colors were delightful. It’s been crisp, cold, somewhat rainy, and even one day with a light snowfall. We love the change of seasons and the beauty of God’s creation all around us.

Our new church family has been warm, welcoming, loving, affirming, and gracious. I feel like God has been preparing us for this time and place and season of ministry for many, many years.

In other words: we are truly overwhelmed and we feel very blessed to be here.  And yet…in these first weeks, it really hit me that God has asked us to “start over”.

In just about every way.

We are in a new city, at a new church, in a new kind of home, with new neighbors, and a whole bunch of new friends. I go to work in a new office, where the routines and practices are different.

It’s all good…yet there is a deeper sense than ever before that the Lord truly is our foundation. When you live in one place for a long time, as we did, it is so easy to become secure in the familiarity of the place, and the people, and the things around you. And it is easy for us to mistake this sense of security in the people and the place for the trust and reliance we should place in our Lord.

Because everything here is so new, we do not have the luxury of this false sense of security. As a result, we find ourselves holding much more firmly onto God. This is good…and I hope to never lose this deeper sense of reliance upon Him, realizing that He is – and must be – my foundation. Over time, I know that we will feel increasingly at home here, and that we will develop wonderful and intimate friendships…just as we did in Fullerton. But I don’t want to let the strength of those friendships or the familiarity of the place ever dilute my trust in, and my reliance upon, the Lord God Almighty.

Still, it is odd and strange and weird and wonderful to be starting over in my 50’s. And I am reminded regularly of the overwhelming newness of my life here in Oregon. For example, I had gone to the same building in Placentia, every two weeks, for nearly 20 years for chiropractic treatment. I had my last adjustment 3 days before we moved…and on Monday I had my first visit with the new chiropractor. He seems like a wonderful doctor – very knowledgeable and skillfull – with a helpful and courteous assistant. But he’s another new presence in my life; another reminder that all of my routines…all of them…are starting fresh. (Even old & familiar routines – like my daily time with the Lord – somehow seem new and different because they are taking place in a new location.)

I’m discovering that this newness leads to a sense of fragility…but also to a deep sense of excitement. An air of expectancy and anticipation. There is the great joy of discovery as we get to know the people (of Garden Way Church and the communities of Eugene/Springfield)…and the great fun of discovering the unique qualities of this place and these people.

But as I reflect on what it means to “start over”, I find myself arriving at what may be the most important conclusion of all: I now have the privilege and opportunity to more fully live out all that God has been building into me for the past year.

- Bruce