The Road not Taken: reflecting on Psalm 1 and John 14.1-6 14 June 2015

A short reflection for our all-age service

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 1

Gospel Reading: John 14:1-6

road not taken

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 kept 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 is the title of a poem by American poet Robert Frost, whose work is suffused with his native New England rural landscapes. It’s a poem about someone taking a walk in the country. The poem begins: ‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood’; and the poet ponders: which route to take? He decides he prefers the one which is ‘grassy and wanted wear’- the route less worn down by walkers who had passed that way previously. And so he concludes:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

For many years, people interpreted the poem as being about the importance of making decisions. Which route shall we take, which way shall we follow? Do we go the way everyone else does? Or shall we choose the path less trodden, the road less taken?

In fact, it might be that Frost was being gently ironic, mocking those who believe that minor decisions they made in the past are responsible for difficulties they are in now . He had a sense of humour, and perhaps enjoyed that people built to much false meaning into a short poem.

Regrets can be unhealthy, if we are simply always looking backwards for reasons for today’s difficulties. Wistfully wondering if we did the right thing by wondering what we might have found it we had taken a different route is a waste of time.

Much more important are the choices we make today, decisions which affect our future. And so even if the poem has been a bit misinterpreted, its enduring popularity in America has to do, I think, with the fact that is created a lovely image. We are all constantly faced with choices, some major, some less so. A choice of routes.

It’s good sometimes to take the the road less travelled. Certainly it’s worth considering when you’re planning your holidays. Some years ago we did a lot of travelling by car in Canada and the USA, and some of the best experiences came when we got off the big roads, and took time to stop. We enjoyed a natter with the waitress at a small town diners in Delaware.

worm machineWe were thrilled to discover, in a tiny place in the backwoods of Canada, that they had a vending machine that sold worms for fishing bait. I love the big cities, but sometimes you discover more off the beaten track.

Jesus says to us today that he is the way, the truth and the life. In our culture, committing to following the way of Jesus Christ is to go off the beaten track, especially for young people. Yet when we do so, we know that as we go along that way that’s bit more more overgrown, we go with Christ- so we do not go alone. And we will have a much richer experience of life. For a life in the company of Christ, a life lived by his principles of love for God and neighbour, will be far richer than just following the way that everyone goes. Amen.