Then the Lord rained down fire and burning sulphur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation. But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt. (NLT)
Lots of weird things happen in the Old Testament, and this is one of them. Sodom and Gomorrah were typical examples of wickedness amongst the Canaanites. The cities are finally destroyed, probably by an earthquake of sorts. Though as is often the case in the Old Testament, the natural occurrence is traced back to a decision by God to bring about judgement on their wickedness.
Lot and his family are warned to flee to escape the judgement. Lot’s wife apparently disobeyed God’s earlier instructions not to dally around. She lingered and we can speculate she was swamped by the fallout from the volcanic forces triggered by the earthquake. She literally became petrified. At least this is the tentative view of those who know about such things.
Beyond all such speculation is the fact that Lot’s wife was reluctant to leave the wicked cities. We can assume her “looking back” was not just a momentary, curious glance. She was torn in her loyalties. She needed to obey God and go with her family to safety. But there was a part in her that longed for what was past that somehow hankered after a life that God had commanded her family to leave. She suffered the consequences.
There is such a thing as pleasant nostalgia: a reflecting on our past, on people and places and events. But there is also such a thing as vain regret. Perhaps a sheer unwillingness to move on and create new memories instead of obsessing with the old. Perhaps a secret desire to indulge again in an old way of life, to surrender to the seductive appeal of a past that we have not got entirely out of our system.
Not much risk of our becoming pillars of salt, but some chance of becoming victims of vain regrets.