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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Don't Look Back

“Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”

Genesis 19:17 NKJV

The incessant flow of refugees, aboard sea barges, to the island of Lampedusa or other places of first landing in the Mediterranean well renders the plight of those who have no option but to risk it in order to get to safety. A state of emergency in their native countries who have only one hope: to flee. The biblical verse takes us back to the days of Abraham, when his nephew Lot parted from him and took the route across the Jordan plain, arriving to pitch his tents in Sodom (Genesis 13:10). The inhabitants of Sodom were so perverse and hostile that injustice, prevarication, adultery and idolatry flowed through the city like rivers of sin. Abraham was warned that God would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and spare Lot and his family. Two angels came, in fact, to Sodom and issued Lot an invitation to get to safety. Before this the landlord had offered hospitality to the two "wayfarers," who soon found themselves threatened by the sodomites. There was little to think about; this was an unmissable invitation. If he wanted to secure his life and that of his loved ones, Lot had no time to waste. Having focused on the danger and decided to accept the invitation, there were two directions, "Do not look back and do not stop," without any delay. And on these we want to dwell.

Whenever we linger we are compromising with our ego. We are not openly saying no to God, but we are putting off until an indefinite tomorrow what is required of us now. The moment we turn back it is like leaving the door of the heart ajar to all that for the sake of Christ we had put behind us. And thinking about it we end up cross-eyed: one eye looking at God and the other at the world, failing to look in the same direction. The action of stopping could even represent the bitter end of the Christian life, when we gradually become static, immobile until we reach total paralysis symbolized by the salt statue of Lot's wife. Her turning back makes us realize how devastating and destructive regret can prove to be. She lacks that dose of awareness to be able to process and overcome the past, and then project herself into the future with renewed hope: God had not abandoned her in Sodom. The angels had recommended not to stop in the valley, a metaphor for sinking and closing in on oneself, where one can be overwhelmed by the destructiveness of others. I do not know why Lot's wife looked back. If it was just curiosity, we would all be in danger. What is certain is that I often meet people who are salt statues, as if dead, stuck in the past of resentments or pain generated by grudges or desire for revenge that slowly plunge them into depression.

The past can prove to be a vortex that swallows up the joy of life and stifles its pleasure. It is imperative to get out of it by breaking all delays. Sometimes the person in distress does not have the strength to break away, and therefore lingers, even lying to self and others, triggering another negative situation. How important it is then that someone grasps and pulls us along, "But because he lingered, those men took him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, because the LORD had had mercy on him" (v. 16). The angels had done this for the whole family, but nevertheless the wife relented. Some have called this behavior the "logic of anxiety control." Lot's wife wanted to control what was going on behind his back. When we want to fathom excessively what is behind us, we run the danger of petrifying ourselves. There is only one solution, to look upward and toward the Other (God). Finding salvation on the mount means making an upward journey that leads us to detach ourselves from all that has brought us pain and suffering: from the past we can learn. Lot and his sons do not turn around and walk to the mountain. Lot's wife, on the other hand, does not, and it costs her dearly. The best cure for the wounds of the past is understanding and compassion. If the LORD has had mercy on us for our past lives, let us become aware of the strength and dignity we have, thanks to Him, and rediscover what really matters in the present.


Piano di lettura settimanale

della Bibbia n. 40

25 settembre Cantico dei C. 6-8; Galati 4

26 settembre Isaia 1-2; Galati 5

27 settembre Isaia 3-4; Galati 6

28 settembre Isaia 5-6; Efesi 1

29 settembre Isaia 7-8; Efesi 2

30 settembre Isaia 9-10; Efesi 3

01 ottobre Isaia 11-13; Efesi 4

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