There’s this way random comments people make about kids and the families they come from can get inside your soul, keep you up at night, make you wonder what happens if you’re one of those kids. And then you’re a parent, laying awake at night, thinking about your origin story, where your parents came from, and what your own kids are going to say about where they came from and what exactly it means for their future.
Somewhere in the space of a thousand years ago, there’s these two guys standing somewhere, all the world before them, about to make a choice that impacts them in very different ways. It’s the kind of story you think about because you want to know what you’re supposed to do when you need guidance on how to make the right choice about everything all the time.
The second guy: He’s the kind of guy you’re not supposed to be like, the dude you’d avoid either on principle or just because you really don’t know how to handle the awkwardness that is that dude. If you ever hear him mentioned when you’re young, you usually get the very edited down version, and even then, that version isn’t so grand.
The first guy: He’s the guy who, if you ever come across him when you’re young, is the obvious hero, the guy you want to be like, the actual “righteous dude.” He’s that guy that decides his entire culture is wrong, heads out into the desert, and proves he’s the stuff of heroes and good action flicks, the kind of dude who takes down four kings to rescue the first guy, who happens to be his nephew.
Lately, I’ve often thought about the second dude. I think about his warning labels, his moment of choice, and the way that no amount of behavior therapy can change the similarities between us. Cause he’s the kind of guy that tries to make the “smart” decision, the kind of decision I’d make cause I’m thinking of myself and my family, just like I imagine him thinking when he heads off down the road toward Sodom.
It’s probably the kind of story with an aftermath that even adults and smart people shy away from, but I’m a mom, a person who chooses and wonders how it’s going to impact my family. I’m also a millennial, conditioned to look at reviews of everything from restaurants to a wash cloth in attempt to figure out which is best. When someone comes along with some new cooking gadget saying it will make life easier in ten minutes or less, I have to really consider it that is actually going to be the case — or just result in hair pulling and general frustration. Sometimes when I consider Lot, his choice, and the family that springs up after, I feel myself wondering what that says about my own choices and the way what I think is “best” might be at odds with what that actually means.
And I think about Lot and how sometimes when I overhear things about kids being impacted in some irreversible way because of something there parents did, I feel that sense of being frozen, wondering about their future, wondering if I’m like those people I used to be annoyed with back when I was a kid and didn’t understand things about the world. And more than some Sunday sermon on what not to be like, I suddenly find myself looking at Lot, longing to find something that makes the story of his family every bit as significant and capable of gaining something grand just like you know you’d want for all the kids who come from situations that seem insurmountable in my eyes and the eyes of this world.
And then one day, I’m staring at the story of a person I thought I knew and finding it to be somehow grander than the one I grew up hearing. It’s the story of Ruth, a woman who, after the death of her husband, binds herself to her mother in law, abandons her culture, and heads off to a world different than what she knew. She’s the kind of woman that goes hand in hand with accolades, gold medals, and the understanding that she was someone to emulate. What I never realized, however, was that this woman who becomes the ancestor of kings and role model is also a descendant of Lot and a situation that seemed irredeemable in the moment after Sodom happened.
The story of Lot and Ruth is the kind of story you need to keep in the backtrack of your mind when you head outside your door to a world that insists on judging you and the places you came from with a sweeping finality that sometimes doesn’t always take into account the real longing we all have to know the road we’re walking is one with a future. It’s the kind of story you need to think about when you feel some situation with your family is utterly hopeless. It’s also the kind of story that makes you wonder about the Third Guy hidden beyond the narrative, the one everyone secretly thinks is judging them for every little thing they get wrong when in fact He’s taking one man’s seeming end-of- the-road journey and plucking pieces of it back into the stars.
So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.
3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.
5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.