Not to return too bitterly into the past, but I fell off the glorious upward trajectory of disciplined bible reading around that dark moment of delight savings time, many moons ago, and have never fully recovered. At first I kept on pushing play on my bible app and closing my eyes, hoping that at least one word in six would filter through the fog of fatigue. But after a while I was unable to find the play button, and so would only open the cover of my tablet and then close it again. I mitigated against this total and devastating failure by listening to the Mission of St. Claire’s morning prayer service a while later, fully awake and ready to derive any possible benefit from any and every word flowing from the lips of the nice man who reads it out every day. Those people are so lovely, whoever they are.
This week I finally had enough and, not even being able to remember where I was in the bible, began again at the beginning, with the light, and the planets and stars and Adam and Eve and all. This morning I arrived at the doorstep of poor Lot, being wrested out of the comfortably lush economy of Sodom and Gomorrah. The city was going to be destroyed because there weren’t any righteous men in it. The Lord couldn’t find ten whole people who would call upon his name, upon whom he could confer the gift of righteousness. Lot only gets that title by association with Abraham. He is the kind of believer we would understand in this day and age–some good instincts mingled with lots and lots of sadness at not being allowed to live comfortably in a corrupt and destructive world. Can we hear the lingering of the word “missional” hovering in the breath of his mouth?
So the Angels of the Lord pry him out of Sodom, picking him up, practically, and hustling him across the plain, his wife and daughters plodding, and probably weeping, along behind. Other people have noticed, so it’s not novel of me to say, but this is how the Lord saves. It’s not like we want to come away out of sin and live free of its destructive power. No, we set up our tents next to the tents of the wicked, and get to know all the neighbors, and when God decides to intervene, lest we perish forever, we cling on for dear death, sure that God is being a big meany, and whatever it was wasn’t that bad anyway. He picks us up out of the pit and pulls us out. And we are all irritated and stressed.Lot’s wife, poor lady, just wants one backward glance. Can’t shake the feeling that this moment is a teensy bit like the modern selfie. The backward glance, the being frozen into a pillar of salt, I’m not trying to draw a metaphor. I’m just thinking there’s something about the posture that is awfully recognizable. You hold up your selfie stick (you, because I don’t have one) and look up ready to capture the moment, and behind you Sodom is burning up with fire. It’s too late, then, to get any farther away. You are frozen on Instagram forever.
And then the incest. There it is. And yet Lot is counted as righteous. It’s a mistake to think that everything recorded in the bible, word by word, is being held up as a good choice for all. Incest, drunkenness, clinging to sin, looking back in sadness–all of those are not ok. But neither is it right to elevate yourself and try to say, ‘I would have done better.’
Every day I am Lot’s wife, frozen in grief that God has pulled me away from the comfort and ease of human wickedness. I’m not trying to be good. I’m not trying to make good and wise decisions. I’m not even thinking in those categories. I am only trying to get through each day without too much discomfort to myself. But God, who is not enough interested in my comfort, not only picks me up and hustles me away from the destructive power of sin, he implants in me the Holy Spirit, who takes up bashing away at my insides, trying to make a more comfortable place for himself. And sometimes the Holy Spirit can be pushy and domineering, like the two Angels of the Lord.
We like to think that we’d be Abraham, standing afar up on the mountain, conversing with the Almighty, pleading with him to spare the righteous, if there are any. And maybe, on a really good day, some of us are. But there are a lot more of us on the plain, being pulled catastrophically to safety, trying to snap pictures of the drama with our phones, poised for a salt encrusted selfie, ready to embarrass ourselves every step of the way.
Happy Sunday. Go to church, for heaven’s, sake. It’s the safest place to be.