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Sunday, March 10, 2013

bread crumbs: why we have trouble forgetting the former things, and why that makes the future a little salty

I think Hansel and Gretl were on to something. 

You remember the tale, right? They left the home of their abusive parents in order to wander the woods. They carried with them loaves of bread. I like to imagine them each warm and soft, and wrapped in crinkly, wax paper. I can see the two of them kicking up the dusty dirt paths, nibbling, ripping apart the crisping crusts with greedy hands and tossing the the few remaining bites behind them with little bursts of crumbs. 

They were looking for better. Running away from the fate of their horrible parents. Longing for a new life, but still clinging to their old one with every step they took and every piece of bread that dropped by their feet.

There's something oddly comforting about looking back, isn't there? The character of Gwendolyn says it best in Oscar Wilde's play, the Importance of Being Earnest.

"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train."

She's infatuated with her own history. She seduces her soul with it. In a way, each page of her diary is a bread crumb, the words she scribbles marks a trail of heartbreak or disappointment she can return to when she's unsure of who she is. 

I tend to do the same thing. I find myself dwelling on certain heartbreaks, injustices I've faced the last few months, or the hurtful things those I love or care deeply for have said or done against me. I think that by leaving a breadcrumb trail of pain I can remember who I am as I turn from the chapters of my life from yesterday and begin fresh. 

These crumbs become a part of my identity. And God is very clear in scripture on how he feels about "breadcrumbers." 

Isaiah 43:18-19 says, "Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness, and streams in the wasteland."   

Further, in the Old Testament, Lot and his wife were fleeing from their home city that was being destroyed. God told them not to look back. 

Don't leave a trail of crumbs for yourself he seemed to say (am I allowed to paraphrase God?). Do it---I dare you, see what happens. 

Lot's wife, instead of looking ahead, dashing to safety and fleeing from utter destruction, turns to look back.

Who knows why? Probably for the same reason we all dwell on our pasts. She wants to feel sorry for herself. She wants to delve into shopaholic, alcoholic, foodaholic tendencies without feeling guilty. She wants to deserve her wallowing. She wants to leave a trail of breadcrumbs. 

She looks back, and turns to salt. 

I think the Lord wants to bless us in magnificent ways. Particularly those who have undergone tragedy, heartbreak, oppression, injustice, illness. I just hope that we can turn from these calamities in our lives long enough that we don't salt our wounds.

I hope we're each brave enough to forego a trail of comforting breadcrumbs, and look ahead to the new chapter that awaits us.


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