What are the fears that wake you up at 3am? Your credit card bill? A relative’s medical situation? The pressure of an upcoming work meeting?
I’ll let you into my secret fear. As we enter 2024, my fear is that my best days are behind me.
My rather peculiar problem stems from the fact that, in 2016, I co-wrote a platinum-selling international hit called ‘My lighthouse’. Yes, you read that correctly. This incredible blessing has somehow been twisted into a problem.
At my healthiest, I am obviously incredibly grateful to be a part of something so successful. I thank God for the spiritual impact that song had. It was described accurately, if sneeringly, by Graham Norton as “very happy clappy”, but it helped people worship. It had the kind of impact many songwriters can only dream of. I’m grateful. I’m even grateful for the almost universal presence of lighthouse paintings in church bathrooms, that I think sowed a subconscious marketing seed to Christians worldwide!
But as a songwriter, there is a potential shadow side to every hit. It comes in the form of a haunting question: What if I never write a great song again?
Fortunately, I think Jesus has an answer for me. It’s found in Luke 17:32 where he warns the disciples to: “Remember Lot’s wife!”
Jesus was referencing the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). These cities were so corrupt they were beyond salvation and were therefore subjected to God’s very literal fiery wrath. (Side note: I find these passages very unsettling and I’m not going to even attempt to reconcile them with the grace-centric gospel we find in the New Testament. Maybe ask NT Wright?)
Anyway, Lot and his family found favour with God and were allowed to flee, with the caveat that they mustn’t look back. But Lot’s wife couldn’t resist the temptation to have one last glance at her old life and was turned into a pillar of salt for her disobedience. (Again – save your questions for NT!)
Moving past some of the troubling details, the overall message is very clear: living in the past leads to death. I’ve seen it happen in my own life. Joy starts to wither when you try to rewind your story. Like the Israelites wandering the desert, I’ve tried to stockpile yesterday’s ‘manna’ and learned first-hand that it doesn’t work that way. We need to trust that there will be fresh manna and new mercies every morning. We need to face forward.
Having faith means stepping into God’s vision for your future. Faithlessness looks like yearning for a romanticised version of your past, or believing that your best songs are behind you.
I’ve found my mantra for the year in the unlikely form of a viral quote attributed to the singer and rapper Jelly Roll: “I want to tell you that the windshield is bigger than the rear view mirror for a reason. What’s in front of you is so much more important than what’s behind you.”
Or, as an ancient Jewish rabbi with far fewer face tattoos put it: “Remember Lot’s wife!”