I have always loved the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken since I first read it more than 40 years ago. As a teenager and young adult, I couldn’t appreciate exactly what it meant, I only knew that I liked it. As I have experienced more and more life, the meaning for me is clearer. Is it the meaning Frost intended? Most likely, it isn’t, but it’s certainly what I interpret it to mean for me. It’s not that simple to explain without a little context.
A Short History
Having lived in 22 cities and towns in my life, 20 of those in Texas, I have met a number of interesting people. Most came in for only a few months or years, while others have been around a majority of my life. In the words of For Good from the musical Wicked, “Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” Whether good or bad experiences, these individuals all contributed to the person I am today.
While I grew up southern baptist, I haven’t been affiliated with a church for decades. However, I’ve continued with my faith in God. For me, I’ve found more commitment in that faith through music, reading, and prayer at home or while surrounded by nature. For those of you who prefer a service in a church building, I’m glad it works for you. It’s not my thing for many reasons, but those reasons are not enough to keep me from continuing to have faith.
My Current Reality
Over the past year, I have experienced challenges that were foreign to me. I didn’t recognize until this week that I was allowing those challenges, and those who have played a role in them, to murder my joy. I had become depressed and had little interest in doing anything besides watch television. Even then, I wasn’t really absorbing what I was watching. I wasn’t present. I was only there.
A Look at the Road
Yesterday, the Robert Frost poem came to mind and because this is not only about my personal views, it is also about my literal views, I’m sharing a photo that sums up how I’ve been feeling.
While the picture is not of an actual road in Texas, it represents how traveling through some of the challenges along life’s journey may feel. We are delusional to think it will always be smooth and easy. That’s not really how it works. Certainly, some have it better than others, but I believe that is due to their faith – faith in a higher power and faith in themselves. I was losing that, especially when it came to faith in me, because I was second guessing myself because of what others said about me. Looking back on it now, I seemed to revert back to my awkward teenage years when people’s words hurt and I didn’t have the maturity to understand from where their hurtful comments came. It’s not a good feeling and I don’t recommend it.
Footprints in the Sand
No one could help me bring that back, except me, with help from God.
Another poem that I love was written by Mary Stevenson and is called Footprints in the Sand. It resonated with me this morning.
The number of times my footprints have disappeared and been replaced with only one set is too many to count. God has been with me during my rockiest of moments and I believe God will continue to walk by my side. I also believe I will feel the occasional nudge directing me to get back on the road and not take an unnecessary detour along the way. After all, we can all be squirrels, distracted by the newest, shiniest object along our paths.
Where Do I Go from Here?
I sit in the quiet of a space I’ve grown to love, listening to the birds chirp, the rooster crow, the dogs bark, and the wall clock tick. I take a few breaths and enjoy the solitude of now.
I remember a quote from Admiral James Stockdale, known as the Stockdale Paradox, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Am I ready to face reality? I think so. Should I be fully confident? Maybe. I do recognize that the road not taken that I’ve chosen for my life is filled with all sorts of detours and distractions. How I choose to face those is up to me.
As I contemplate, I recognize the promise of a new day, a new hope, and a new adventure. That keeps me going for the time being. Here’s to finding the joy again and being the best I can be in the time I have been blessed to have on this earth. Onward and upward!