Freewriting the Scriptures: Lot’s Delay

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This post continues a brief series on how to meditate on the Scriptures. Freewriting is a technique of writing immediate impressions without extended analysis or thought. More explanation on this method of meditation in this earlier post. Today’s reading from the Daily Office tells the story of Lot’s delayed departure from Sodom. Below you will find my brief ‘freewriting’ reflection on this story.

Genesis 19.15-16a: “As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.’ 16 But he lingered.’

When morning dawns over Sodom the day of judgment has arrived for that city. Warnings were issued, some were even issued by Lot, to leave the city for its coming judgment. Lot speaks a desperate appeal to his sons-in-law that they depart the city so that he and his daughters might be saved from the judgment.

Yet after the passionate appeal to his sons-in-law to quickly leave Sodom, Lot himself needs to be exhorted. Angels come to Lot and urge him to leave the city. There can be no mistake about the urgency of their message. ‘Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here!’ The call for immediate departure comes to Lot and we learn that upon this command Lot delays his departure. ‘But [Lot] lingered.’ In the end, Lot is saved, not by his own personal faith, but according to the mercy of God that comes through his messenger-angels who remove Lot from the city that would be destroyed.

In the life of faith, there are moments when God speaks and there is no time for reflection, deliberation, or extended discernment. As a rule, hurriedness is not a virtue, but when God says ‘hurry’ or his messengers say ‘Up!’ it’s time to move.

This passage reminds me of Jesus’ exhortation about the coming fall of Jerusalem in Mark’s mini-apocalypse. When the signs of Jerusalem’s fall appear, his followers are commanded to flee to the hills. His word is his warning. There is no need for further deliberation. In a moment of divine action, lingering equates to disobedience and sin.

These moments in the spiritual life are few, but they do come. It is not a matter of ‘being decisive’ as if the decision is subject to our own reason. There are moments when we are commanded to promptly follow God’s instructions. In a time of divine action, our prompt response to God’s instruction is faith and obedience. In these moments, promptness is faithfulness.

Though we cannot anticipate when these moments will arrive in our lives, we can prepare for them, not by forecasting future events, but by cultivating an ear that is sensitive to the Lord’s voice. When he calls for action, there is no time to linger. His counsel and wisdom is perfect and we must trust his wisdom by responding in faith and obedience.