By Guest Author, Marianne Neufang
“So, I got a phone call today…”
To anyone else, these seven words seem innocent, but in my experience, they have always lead to hard conversations. You see, I am a pastor’s wife, which means these words can be a prelude to bad news, the announcement of a death, the request for a speaking engagement, or more. It is usually through the inflections and tone of my husband’s voice that I can normally determine which way this conversation is heading.
This time, however, I could tell it wasn’t going to be good. In that moment, I was sitting at the counter of our kitchen watching my husband cook dinner. I was also largely pregnant with our second child. His inflection sounded cautious, like he was bracing himself for my response. I knew exactly where this conversation was heading; he had gotten a call from a church wanting him to consider a position on their staff.
The catch was this church was out of state, more than 15 hours from our family, and would mean a major transition for our family. Those seven words had just upheaved my comfort zone. We would have to consider moving, starting a new job, selling a home, finding a new one, and doing all this while finishing a pregnancy, giving birth, and traveling with a newborn. I hate those seven words.
As we began going through the difficult process of interviewing, discussing, and weighing out our options, I found myself falling into prayer frequently over the idea. I wanted to seek God’s direction for our family even if it was different from my own desires. But, truthfully, I was doing a really poor job of doing so.
I like to blame it on the pregnancy hormones, but in all honesty, it was probably more of my selfishness which lead my prayers to be more of a plea for God to close this door. We had already done this whole process a few years before, it just could not be our time already.
But God would not close this door. The conversations my husband was having with this church continued (even in the delivery room as our son was born).
Visits were being planned and flights being booked. We were taking family and friends in as confidants to pray with us through our decision. Everything was moving forward but I felt myself wanting to dig my heels in and slow it all down.
I was praying that God would make that his plan too. It was during one of these prayers that I felt God speak to my heart. Another seven words that would trump the previous: “Do not become a pillar of salt.”
If the term does not sound familiar, the idea comes from the Bible story of Lot and his wife (who remains unnamed) from Genesis 19. In this story, Lot encounters two angels who inform him that God is about to destroy the city of Sodom (19:12). In God’s graciousness, however, Lot is told that he and his family will be spared but they must first flee the city (19:15).
On the day of destruction, Lot gathers his family and they begin to flee while sulfur and fire from the Lord rain down on the city, the valley, all the inhabitants of the city, and all that grew on the ground destroying it all (19:23-25).
Not only would everyone they once knew be gone, but there truly would be nothing left for Lot and his family in the place where they had called home.
Yet, the Bible says that “Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (19:26). To me, it had always seemed to be a harsh punishment for a simple action. I assumed morbid curiosity had led to her to look upon the fiery scene.
But God, knowing her heart, knew that her look was an outward expression of her lack of trust in Him and His plan. The passage is very clear about God’s plan for Sodom, and God’s plan to spare Lot’s family.
There was no denying where the source of their information was coming from with two angels in their physical presence. Yet, Lot’s wife did not believe it to be the best plan for them, and she was punished for her disobedience.
As a pillar, she would serve as a reminder to other people; as salt, even the ground around her would be altered and unfit for growth. Her disobedience would have continuing consequences beyond her death.
Now here I was, in the same type of position. God had clearly spoken to my husband of His plans for our family, but I was looking back. I was looking at a town full of friends, a good ministry situation, and close proximity to our extended families and I was choosing not to let those things go. I was choosing to believe it had the promise of future happiness that was better than the future that God was laying out for our family.
I had lost sight of trusting God and trusting in His plan. To make it worse, I was at risk of letting my saltiness affect my family and the environment around me. I felt like Lot’s wife, standing on that mountain facing my choice to move forward or to continue to look back.
Like the pillar that she is, Lot’s wife had become a reminder to me of the consequences of not trusting His process. I had prayed for clarity as to what our family should do, and he had given me an answer to that prayer that was better than the one I had planned out.
Through the example of Lot’s wife, I was reminded that, although no angels had appeared before my husband, God had clearly spoken to us of His plan. We would be moving, my husband would be beginning a new job at a new church, and I would be raising my kids away from their extended families.
In doing so, I would be trusting God that His plans are greater than my own. Do not get me wrong, it was not always easy (including driving my toddler and newborn halfway across the country alone), but God’s blessings came all the same.
We found friends who became our family, we found a job where my husband could flourish in his God-given abilities, and our family thrived. God truly did work things out for His good and for ours.
My prayer, for you and for me, is that as we learn to trust God for who He is and for what He is doing, we will become a pillar of obedience and not a pillar of salt.
Marianne has been following her pastor-husband all over the southeast for the past eleven years. Currently, they call Hoschton, Georgia, home. Marianne is a registered dietitian who previously has worked for Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Duke Regional Hospital as an oncology and general medicine dietitian. Currently, though, she is enjoying a season of being able to stay home and raise her two boys who both challenge her and keep her humble. She also serves her local church through leading woman in Bible study.