Genesis 19:15–26, Deuteronomy 17:14–20, Proverbs 26:11, Mark 13:14–20
Looking back to see how far you’ve come is a good practice. One of the gifts of doing so is seeing where God had been moving when you were unaware. It is also good to see what decisions you made that you will be able to make a difference for the future.
As someone once said, looking in the rear-view mirror only shows where you’ve been, not where you are going.
Lot’s wife looked back to her life of old (and possibly one of wealth and comfort) during the escape from Sodom. Instead of looking to where she (and her family) were going, she looked back…and died.
As we get to Deuteronomy, looking back has taken another turn. Israel was not to “turn back” Egypt. Yet, Israel did it again and again, including their leaders. While in Deuteronomy there was still some (wrong) nostalgia for Egypt, this should have been long gone after a few generations in the Promised Land. Egypt remained such a part of the Israel story that even Jesus was taken there by his parents to escape a deadly situation. God used it as a fulfillment of prophecy. The only reason that this was so significant was that Egypt continued to be a place Israel looked back to.
We all look back. Think of the many memes of the internet that look back to some ideal time in the past, as if there weren’t things going wrong “back then”. The world of church and American Christianity has a strong tendency toward this. A lot of effort is spent looking back at the ideal age that past (whatever age that is). This means that the church is spending a lot of energy looking in the rear-view mirror and not ahead. This is why one of the struggles of the church is following culture, rather than leading it.
While it might seem crass to talk about vomit, the reality is that dogs return to vomit for some strange reason. While people don’t return to their vomit, per se, they still return to what they know, even if it is bad for them. This is one of the struggles that many people have as they try to change for the better. The old way is comfortable, even if it sometimes disgusting.
Looking back—thinking of what is lost—is a huge problem for any of us. All too often that can lead to a repeat performance of what we left behind. As Jesus warns of Jerusalem’s (and the temple’s) fall, it isn’t so much wail about what was lost, but escape to what lies before.
1) Do you ever find yourself mourning or dwelling upon what was left behind or what could have been? Why? What emotions do you feel before and after thinking about it? Does that give you any further insights?
2) What is one thing of the past you see that your employer, social association, church, etcetera is stuck on? Why do you think that is? How can you move things forward?
3) The fear of the unknown/uncertain often keeps us from moving forward. While we may understand that what occurred in the past wasn’t healthy, why do we go back to it? What is it about the future that we are often missing?