The story of Lot’s wife has always had a powerful impact on me. One simple story in the Bible becomes such a poignant lesson of trusting in the Lord’s plan for us. Lot’s wife has one little verse about her part in the story. One verse about her choice to look back on Sodom and Gomorrah, and the instant consequence for looking back was to turn her to a pillar of salt–forever stuck looking back on her past.
While typically this story is used to teach its readers to look towards the future instead of stare into the past, I would like to suggest another way of relating the story of Lot’s wife into our own lives.
I propose there is a line to be drawn from the story of Lot’s wife to our own longing to be like those we aren’t. While Lot’s wife longed to be back in Sodom and Gomorrah, I find myself often longing to look like so and so, to have the clothes she has, to travel like that person, and the list of longing goes on and on.
I’ll be the first to say I love social media! Social media is a wonderful virtual connection for family and friends. But it is just that, virtual. It’s not necessarily reality. As I have often recognized my own moments of longing for certain aspects of someone else’s life I have realized my addiction to social media plays a key role in why I have that longing.
On March 2nd, 2017 I gave birth to my first child, a beautiful baby girl. She was healthy and strong and by all means perfect. The doctors placed her on my stomach and my world changed forever.
While I was in recovery my hormones quickly began to take over my emotions. I was sore, exhausted, and overwhelmed by the new role I had stepped into as a mother. While I adored my new responsibility, I was not prepared for the intense physical and emotional recovery I would have to endure. Nothing prepares you for the huge hormonal shift that comes after having a baby. The first week of my daughters life was supposed to be filled with emotions of joy and happiness, but it ended up being one of the hardest weeks of my life.
I was ridden with anxiety after our first night in the hospital. I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of my new calling as a mother, not to mention, surprised at how difficult recovery was after giving birth.
When we got home there were several days I couldn’t even get out of bed because I was so emotionally fragile and physically weak. I spent the first several days unexplainably crying and worrying over the health of my baby and myself.
I have struggled with anxiety for the majority of my adult life and have developed the ability to know when I need to ask for help. So, I decided to make an appointment with my OBGYN, left my new baby with my parents, and drove to my doctor with my husband in tow.
My doctor is an angel sent from heaven, and I will always be grateful for his understanding heart. He came into the room and I burst into tears. He sat on his little brown stool, wearing his beloved blue crocs, and nodded sympathetically as I told him the emotional agony I had been going through since giving birth that week. What he told me that day gave me sweet comfort in such a difficult situation. He calmed my fears and reminded me what I was going through was completely normal. Out of the many comforting words he told me, one piece of advice stood out to me the most:
“Karla, get off social media,” he said. “Take a break for a few days. What you see portrayed on social media is not reality. We have bought into the idea that what we see on social media is truly how our peers look and act. We pull out our phones, get on Instagram and Facebook, and see pictures where families’ look put together, mothers’ who have just had babies look perfect, and their lives look easy. It’s not real. It’s creative cropping and editing, and several takes of the same pose. If you were with them in their homes you would be surprised that they are all just struggling to stay afloat. Just. Like. You.”
He continued to point out that we shut ourselves in our homes and distance ourselves from each other, only interacting virtually, allowing ourselves to see the best moments in someone’s life, not the worst.
Then, he talked about the rise in postpartum depression in the United States, and how he believes it is not only brought on by hormones but that it is also related to looking at the lives of others and comparing ourselves to those that we have come to virtually idolize. He said that he wished we would reach out and help each other, but we are often too proud to do show that we need each other. Instead, we become obsessed with the need to look perfect and impress our peers.
Where is the happiness in that?
I left my doctors office feeling like I could breathe again. I wasn’t supposed to just step into motherhood and be perfect at it. My body wasn’t supposed to heal in a week’s time and lose its postpartum belly pooch instantly.
I was supposed to feel exhausted. I was supposed to rely on others to take care of my baby and myself. Only, I didn’t know all of this because my sweet doctor was right. I had seen all of the Instagram posts of women having babies and I had fantasized that their life was perfect and complete.
So when my reaction wasn’t “perfect” in a sense, I became ashamed that I couldn’t cope the way I assumed all of the other mothers had. And that’s just it, it’s an assumption of how someone’s life looks, chances are, if we really took the time to get to know them they would most likely say they had made similar assumptions about you!
My thought process was skewed by the perfect world social media tends to portray. I have no doubt all of those women had some difficult days, even months ahead of them recovering and adjusting. I now realize social media can be such a wonderful tool to reach out and help each other in those moments of despair.
In the weeks after my daughters birth, I took the time to bond with my new baby and focus on my own recovery process. When I spent time on social media I actively tried to train my brain to be happy for the joyful moments that were shared on my news feed, instead of pining after what I wished I had.
Our Pillars of Salt
How often are we longingly looking at the clothing, lifestyle, and looks of those around us and on social media? Do we trust our Father in Heaven’s plan for us even if it doesn’t meet the standards of social media?
How much time is wasted mindlessly scrolling through hundreds of posts with little self-deprecating thoughts creeping in that eventually change our self-talk?
Instead of looking forward in our lives we are stalling ourselves by looking towards the lives of others. We may not be turning into pillars of salt by wishing after the life of someone else, but we are stalling our own improvement.
I have read statistics recently that young teenage girls self-image is dependent on how many likes they got on their Instagram post. It is heartbreaking to me that a virtual heart clicked on a screen can somehow determine our self-worth.
As the millennial generation, we have the opportunity to do incredible things through social media. It is a wonderful tool to build a business, keep in touch with family and friends through pictures and videos, share the gospel, and stay connected with the world. However, it is not the determining factor of how wonderful our life is going. It is not where we are meant to gain our happiness.
Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt, stuck forever looking back on the city she longed to be in, in the life, she longed to have. Let us not become stuck looking at the lives of others while our life becomes stagnant, forever scrolling and double tapping.
Spend a little less time each day scrolling and a little more time moving forward in your life. Look at yourself in the mirror and embrace who you are now and where you are now. Your self-worth does not depend on how many likes or comments you get on your picturesque post.
Our Father in Heaven sees us for all that we can do and achieve. He sees us for all of our beauty and worth. Let us not end up resenting the Lord and His plan for us for the things we don’t have, the body we have yet to shape, or the life we don’t think we are living. Instead, let’s ask Him how we can reach our goals in a healthy way, and in the meantime find joy in our journey.
Choose to be happy with you right now. Choosing to be happy with where you are currently is a choice. Lot’s wife made a choice to look back when she very well could have made the choice to look forward. Please don’t get stuck looking at the life you want to have and find your very own wonderful life passing you by.
In the words of our beloved Elder Holland, “To all such of every generation, I call out, ‘Remember Lot’s wife.’ Faith is for the future. Faith builds on the past but never longs to stay there. Faith trusts that God has great things in store for each of us and that Christ truly is the “high priest of good things to come.”