"Remember Lot's Wife"
The Saigon market had the fattest rats I ever hope to lay eyes on.
The one that was nearly too big to squeeze under one of the vegetable stalls had to be at least the size of a large rabbit or small beaver. He actually squealed, momentarily stuck trying to make his getaway.
The squeal caught my attention and I stopped short. “Did you see that? What was it, a cat?”
“Oh, no, that’s a market rat. They’re everywhere.”
Avis and I picked our way carefully along the walkways between the stalls of produce in this huge barn of a warehouse. Gutters paralleled both sides of the walk. I didn't want to look at whatever wiggly things occupied those sluiceways which, I was told, emptied into open sewer. I'm not sure why the concrete floor was wet. It could have been from the afternoon monsoon that dropped its payload and then dissolved into steaming sunshine. Or, someone may have hosed the place before it opened for morning business. Or, I don't even want to speculate. At any rate, shopping in Saigon could be quite the adventure.
Small mountains of cabbages on the left competed with other mounds of vegetables and fruits on all sides. Efficient "mama-sans" in silky black pajama bottoms and loose white tops presided over their merchandise. They padded around in bare feet while serving a customer, making change from a thick wad of piasters drawn from a pocket. Then between sales they sat lotus fashion like plump little Buddhas alongside or atop their stall.
We passed by bundles of live chickens, feet tied together and hanging upside down, squawking in protest. I avoided the meat market. This was all new to me. Avis had more worldly experience, having nannied from her home in England to far-flung outposts of the British Empire. I'd let her shop for the fresh meat for the orphanage. It was a relief for me to leave the food market behind to seek out the textiles and other dry goods.
In this other section of the market the native women, displaying their fabrics and housewares, seemed to belong to another culture. Slender, wearing dainty little heels and the long flowing ao-dai, these were women of business rather than farmers. Even the concrete floor was dry along these walkways. I could take a deep breath and relax, enjoying the sights, not having to carefully watch each step. Even though this sort of shopping was so different from my hometown in the USA, I could get used to it. But, it did remain a chore to get through, rather than a pleasure to pursue. The entire experience reminded me of something important from childhood.
Our preacher papa regularly gave us a three-word admonition. "Remember Lot's wife!" He even had a sermon by that title in his repertoire. We understood it as a warning not to look back on the corruptible things of the world. Instead, we were instructed to have that upward perspective that makes sense out of life only in light of eternity.
"Since all these things are perishing, what manner of persons ought we to be?" Well, we do need things to help get us through life. That was obvious. But, we are not supposed to become so preoccupied with the cares and riches of this world that we fail to bear fruit for the next. In short, we learned that we are to worship the Creator, only, rather than anything in His creation. Clearly, going shopping required both money and a circumspect mindset.
Remembering that monstrous rat, I think it would be quite easy for me to avoid looking over my shoulder, longing for the fleshpots of Saigon. On the other hand, if I had to turn my back on a quaint shop full of Victorian paraphernalia, that might be more of a struggle and an entirely different story!
Luke 17:32, 2 Peter 3:11, Luke 8:14, Exodus 16:3
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