The Chosen Road

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost (American poet, 1874-1963)

That is a poem I memorized and took to heart when I was a junior in high school. For all the many varied and diverse roads I have traveled since then, I think I would have to agree with Mr. Frost in some regards. There are many thing you could have done that you chose not to do, and those things, taken together with the things you chose to do have shaped you to be the person you are today.

Some roads we find in life are straight and sure, free from debris and any visible threat or danger. They stretch on and on with little change or drama. Many people travel these roads, for mile upon uniform mile. These roads can seem tedious, and surreal, like you’re not actually going anywhere at all. After one hour, two, five, ten, the distance seems as distant as it did before. It seems you’ve made no progress at all. You sometimes think this MUST be the wrong way. You should have gotten somewhere by now, right? Eventually, though, you find that it was the right road after all; and thank goodness you stayed on track all the time it took! These roads seem to take up the majority of the journey.

Other roads are full of bends and sharp corners and shrubs in the middle of the path. There can be downed trees, or rock slides, or animals in the road! There are cave-ins, pitfalls, potholes, and brambles to fight our way out of and through. This road can be exciting, but it is never safe to let down your guard completely. It’s enough to make your hair turn grey! So much to see along the sides of the road, but you dare not take your eyes from in front of you! This is white-knuckle-way, Baby! You’d better fasten your seat belts here! Thankfully, these roads don’t last as long as they seem they will .

Still other roads we take are much slower, over roads that meander from side to side, and up and down over hillocks and through meadows. It’s so easy to get lost on these roads, and no trouble at all once it’s happened. These kinds of roads are full of change and surprise, but rounding a corner brings something delightful and new, some new perspective to consider. On these roads we encounter sunny glens, foamy river rapids, mountain peaks, the scent of orange blossoms, and enchanted forests we want to get lost in and never come out of again! Traveling down this road is never a trial or, unfortunately, very long.

“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.” Ayn Rand (Russian born American Writer and Novelist, 1905-1982)

The path you are traveling leads to a place you have never been before, the future, that unknown, strange, and mysterious thing. Don’t think that the ways you have been down up until now are the ONLY ways. That would be as silly as saying the people you have known up until now are the ONLY people. It  may seem, at times, as though you were fenced in, prohibited from choosing  any other road but the ones you have already traveled. Just keep in mind, that sometimes to get somewhere new, you have to hop a fence, or swim a river, or climb a mountain. There is a lot of work in making new roads. Think of new sights, smells, flavors, feelings, loves that you will never know until you build those roads.
“When all’s said and done, all roads lead to the same end. So it’s not so much which road you take, as how you take it.” Charles de Lint (Celtic folk musician and story teller, b.1951)
No matter what road you have had the fortune, or misfortune, to travel, always there has been someone who walked the same road or a more difficult road. You are not in this world alone. No matter what the catastrophes and terrors and tragedy, there are many who have overcome these obstacles and lived triumphant afterward. Your road can be as new as your very next step. This life is full of another chance, and another, and another. The road you finally travel, is the road you CHOOSE to travel, and none of us has to walk alone.

“In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ “They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar —some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.” Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.”  Isaiah 49: 8-17


Good Intentions and “Missed Opportunity”

When I was younger, I loved the group Hall and Oates, LOVED them. I would sit on the floor in front of my pink (PINK!) boombox and play their tapes and sing along. One day, I discovered the continuous play feature on the big stereo and then I was free to move about the cabin. My life was forever changed! For anyone too young to remember this, the reason was that you didn’t have to eject your tapes anymore and flip them over to hear the rest of the music. I could now sit across the room, I could dance, I could practice what I’m sure was a ridiculous form of Ziegfeld Follies meets Ace Ventura; but in my mind, I was acting out touching scenes of love and devotion, defending the one I love, being saved from certain death, and fighting with speed and precision to rival that of Bruce Lee. I was alone a lot of the time, and rather awkward as you may have guessed. 🙂 One of my favorite songs was Hall and Oates Missed Opportunity

( Here is a link to the song )

I didn’t understand the implications of the song’s title at the time; but as an adult, I have experienced the feeling of missed opportunity, squandered chances, and painful regret. We should have said……We should have done….We shouldn’t have said…..We shouldn’t have done……if only, if only, if only……

Of course, sometimes the consequences can be deadly serious. They can be life-altering, but not always. Sometimes, they can be rather humorous, or downright hilarious. Let me tell you a little story…

Recently, I had an appointment to take an exam for a job. I was careful to mark the time down, and the place. Since I was unfamiliar with the area, I decided to leave early. After all, showing up on time is a very good sign. When you’re late, especially when there is a potential job in question, it shows the employer many uncomplimentary things about the prospective employee. No matter what the reasons might be for tardiness, it’s best to be on time. Therefore I was early, by over 45 minutes. I found a good parking spot. The exam was being conducted at a Lutheran university, so I was not completely surprised to find an encouraging Bible verse etched in relief on the side of the building when I got out of my car.

“No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:5-7

I was feeling very encouraged. I was feeling very blessed. It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining. The grass was green. (This is Washington, remember?) There was a library-like hush as I walked through the beautiful campus. The brick walls which surrounded me were welcoming. My hair was blowing in the breeze. There were birds chirping somewhere nearby. It was idyllic. On the steps of one of the buildings, which I assume was a dormitory, there was a small group of students and one of them was strumming a guitar in-expertly. The pathways meandered between the buildings and stretches of smooth, green lawn.

I found the building. The glass doors were heavy with importance and all the knowledge of those many students and professors passing inside of them every day. (I love schools and libraries. I think learning new things is one of my absolute favorite things to do in the world. I chalk it up to some excellent teachers over the years.)

So anyway, my hair was blowing in the breeze, and I found the right building, and in I went. I was quite early, so I wasn’t too concerned by the fact that there were no indications of the place I needed to be. I looked around a bit, noticed the campus coffee shop was in the same building, with much satisfaction (I am nothing, if not a coffee junkie), and went to the office where the “women who know all” were hard at work on their computers. If anyone could help me, I knew they could.

So, I went up to the counter and leaned on it sociably and asked them where I needed to be for the exam. The “women who know all” looked at me blankly for only one brief moment. I think it could best be described in milliseconds. Then they were on the ball, asking me who my contact person was and what the job title or exam title was. They know how it’s done, these women. Unfortunately, I am not someone who think a job title is especially important. I just want to know what a person actually does. So I described it to them as well as I could and they very kindly did not remark on the fact that I was rather ill-prepared if I didn’t even know the name of the test or position I hoped to get by taking the test in the first place.

Eventually, one of them suggested I walk back to my car and take another look at the parking pass, because most of the time, the information I needed was printed out right on the parking pass itself. So, still smiling, but now slightly irritated with myself for my inability to remember the name of the job, I walked back to my car.

My hair was blowing in the breeze, and the brown brick buildings surrounded me in their atmosphere of higher learning, and somewhere nearby a bird was chirping. I crossed the street and made my way back to where I’d parked. There, across the parking lot, was my car. As I walked closer, I saw the white glare of the parking pass smiling up at me from the dashboard. I read the name of the contact person, who “the women who know all” had mentioned was out that day; and the time; and the date……..which I had failed to notice before. It was June 1st, which was weeks away. My face fell.

That was when I noticed that beneath the parking pass on the dashboard, hanging from my car’s ignition, were my keys. Sigh.

So, I walked back to the office of the “women who know all”. My hair was blowing in the breeze. I was surrounded by warm, brick buildings and their only slightly smug atmosphere of higher learning, and somewhere nearby a bird was chirping. I told the “women who know all” what had happened. they very kindly gave me the number of a locksmith, and there were smiles all around as I walked back to my car, resigned to the fact that at the very least it was a beautiful day and I had enjoyed a lovely drive and would now have a story to tell. As it turned out, my hatch was unlocked, so I was able to crawl through the back, while trying very hard to look like I was NOT breaking in to my own car, and thereby managed to save myself some money. Still, it was disappointing that I had been so mistaken.

I’m not saying that my story is hilarious or thought-provoking, but it did give me pause. What do we do with a missed opportunity, a mistake, a bad choice, or a goof-up? Does the fact that we get things wrong and miss the mark from time to time mean that we are not who we feel we are when everything is going the way we want it to? Are we any less blessed with an amazing family when our family is having a less than amazing ordeal, or day, or public temper tantrum? Do we remain thankful for the job we hoped and prayed for when the boss is demanding, and the office politics seem like the posturing of junior high school girls trying to fight each other for the good spot at the bathroom mirror?

Let’s get one thing clear: for the blessed among us, life is long, and there will be ample opportunity to fail, be embarrassed, get it wrong, and otherwise show everyone around you proof positive that you are imperfect, and that’s OK!!

Life goes on, and God gets it. More importantly, He gets US.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.                             

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.  Psalm 103: 8-14