I remember the words because I had to memorize them in elementary school. They were the words to a poem by Robert Frost entitled “The Road Not Taken” The words that stuck with me through all these years (becoming my favorite quote) are – “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”
Since memorizing that poem I have chosen a lot of roads during my lifetime. In fact, life is pretty much a series of constant choices every day. And the choices I make matter. Which path I choose matters.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
How can I know which path to choose? The person in the poem debated before he chose, but he could only see so far down the path and no further. He couldn’t see beyond the bend. He couldn’t know where the path would lead nor where it would end. “long I stood, And looked down one as far as I could, To where it bent in the undergrowth;” He had to make a choice without seeing where the road ended. What to do?
“Trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding; in all my ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct my paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Why would I trust God to lead me down any particular path? Maybe because He sees things from a higher perspective than I do. God has a totally different vantage point.
“I am God, and there is none like Me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)
Two roads before me – I have a choice to make. The journey is mine for the choosing. I always have a choice. Robert Frost’s poem is about an age-old dilemma – which direction to take? which way is the more desirable? Joshua faced such a choice and said,
” . . . choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
That choice did not lead down the easiest path, but it was and is the path that leads to life. Consider what Matthew 7:13-14 says,
“For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
That sure sounds like a road less traveled by, to me. I am faced with two roads diverging several times each day and choosing the less traveled road is not always easy. Consider what I am instructed to do (or to choose) in Romans 12:9-21 –
“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. . . . Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. . . . Do not repay anyone evil for evil. . . . If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, . . . If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
These are hard choices to make. I don’t always feel like being joyful, patient or faithful. I definitely don’t feel like blessing and feeding those who are hurtful to me and therefore are my enemies. I don’t always want to choose the path of kind words and deeds when others are unkind or even cruel. The path of honesty often seems harder to choose than the path of deception. (just look at those in positions of public trust) The road less traveled by is the lonelier, harder road for sure but it is the road with the better reward at the end. Guess that’s why I like this quote – it reminds me to choose the higher, harder, lonelier way – because in the end that will make all the difference.
And now for the competing quote – also a long time favorite. “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good that I can do, therefore or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” Stephen Grellet
For a procrastinator such as myself, these are sobering words. I always think I’ll get to it tomorrow, but today is what I’ve been given, while tomorrow is promised to no one, including me. Sometimes this quote haunts me more than it motivates me. But ultimately these words remind me to live in the moment and not to leave things unsaid or undone that would be a help or an encouragement to someone else. (but always good to leave unsaid and undone those words and deeds which harm and discourage someone else)
I think Paul gave the same advice to the Ephesians that Grellet gave when he said not to defer in doing good. In other words, don’t put it off! Paul said it like this,
“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16)
that’s what I want to do, make the most of every opportunity. Each day is a gift from God and I don’t want to waste one moment – I will not pass this way again.
well, that’s it for the competing quotes. I actually have a third quote that might be my favorite of them all, “though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
but that’s another post for another day,
sincerely, Grace Day