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 poet Robert Frost penned this iconic poem over a hundred years ago, and I think that many of us can relate to it. We live in a time and place where often the choice is ours regarding our vocation, our location and our destination. Somehow, though, when we hit our first detour, it takes us by surprise. When our chosen way is blocked by calamity or a change of circumstances, we can be slow to accept our new direction. Some of us mentally stay at the detour sign, rehearsing our “if onlys” and nurturing resentment over being forced onto a different path than the one we had chosen.
“If only I had married someone else”, we sigh, head down as we trudge along the path, “or gone to college; or taken a different job. If only someone hadn’t died or gotten that diagnosis”. Somehow we are sure that the first path was paved with peace, health and prosperity; that everything would have worked out, if only….and now we find ourselves skirting potholes and stumbling over the uneven pavement of this new direction.
I suspect it’s easy for all of us to name our hurts and disappointments, our failures and betrayals, our losses and deaths. We rarely consider that the easy way might have led us straight over a cliff. The rough, rock-strewn way is the one we all must travel; the straight, smooth road through life is only a mirage.
But the detours lead somewhere too. In addition to being roadblocks, they can also serve as waypoints on the journey, not only pointing us in new directions, but giving us a new perspective. Who are we to expect that, of all the people who have ever lived, we alone should escape suffering, tragedy and disappointment? The question is, will we walk with grace, or keep kicking pebbles of resentment down the trail ahead of us?
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Weeping, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. (Psalms 84:5-7)
If we are following Jesus, we are pilgrims on an upward path. One that doesn’t end in a grave but instead leads to a grand reunion of light and love. Our detours are often the things that prepare us and point us to our beautiful destination.
And down here, as we run and stumble and crawl our way to glory, the detours we run into frequently direct us straight into our purpose. If we want our lives to mean something, if we want to leave a mark on the souls around us, then we must take our detours with grace and courage, holding out our hands to our fellow travelers, and pressing forward with open eyes and open hearts to glimpse the unfolding purpose that awaits us just around the bend.