“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” begins the famous poem by Frost. I know Frost was speaking of choosing a road “less traveled” and what difference that had made in his life, but I cannot help but be drawn into the application within the image of the poem. Frost pondered two roads, but from his perspective, they were not equal. It was clear that one was less often chosen than the other and on that one he set his foot. My roads today are not so clear.
I imagine it is easy to choose between two roads when one is plastered with “Hazard” signs or with “Detour” markers. When one choice is clearly labeled as trouble, it is simplicity itself to choose the other. Or even, as I suspect the case with Frost, one road promises a better vantage or a clearer view, that choice too is, perhaps not easy, but somewhat obvious. Surely the road with the better view is steeper and harder to travel, but the ultimate advantages far outweigh the initial difficulties.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I…” I stood glaring in frustration because neither promised benefits nor warned of danger. Clearly, from this vantage point they are not equal, but neither are their final destinations. “I must’ve taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque,” said Bugs Bunny. I don’t want this to be my Albuquerque, and yet, I have no map to define the “right” turn. Oh for an hour alone with the Urim and Thummim of the Old Testament. Which fork in this road is correct?
These are the occasions when my faith is tested the greatest. These are the times when I feel most like a deist, or agnostic, or even atheist*. I have a distinct and strong feeling that the outcome of this choice is important. The screaming voices of my past and present conflict within my skull making the choice difficult and existence miserable until I know the outcome. They war with each other pointing to the good and bad of each path.
“You are a rebel, always have been. You have such a hard time following authority it is no wonder you want to choose that path. That is what you do when confronted with authority, you rebel. Even when obeying is the best course for everyone involved, you stiffen up and bristle against the legitimate leading of God through the normal authority. And you make everything worse for everyone in the end.” (Says one voice)
“True, but in this case it is out of a desire for protection and security for your loved ones. You want what is best and you want to prevent further harm. The authority is wrong because of their inflexibility. They don’t really know and they don’t really care. They are simply operating out of a strict adherence to the rules. Your desire is for protecting and nurturing.” (Says the other voice)
“Of course, but that’s just it, the decision of the authority is exactly what is needed in this case. Surely it doesn’t fit the strict aspect of the rules, but the results will be exactly what is needed and what is necessary. It will be difficult, but that is what is needed. The best way to protect and nurture is to prepare. And doing what the authority says is a great chance to eliminate bad attitudes, bad characteristics, and prepare for life. Maybe the authority doesn’t care, but God can still use them and work His plan.” (The first replies)
“Really the key here is that the authority is usurping your authority. You granted the authority the right to make decisions, but this one is stupid and it doesn’t and shouldn’t be so inflexible. The solution is not as severe as the authority is demanding. God can work everything out without this severity and there isn’t a need for anyone to suffer anything.” (The second responds)
Now, which of these voices is the proverbial light angel and which is the dark angel? And therein lies the conundrum. And the answer is not forthcoming. “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). So how to make a decision that seems to have a weightiness to its impact and yet is not a clear choice between right and wrong.
“Two roads diverged in a wood….” How far down the road must we travel before we know if it is the wrong road and is that too far to turn back? And this, perhaps is crux of the decision. One choice cannot be revoked. To take that step is to seal the decision. Once that road is chosen, it cannot be undone. So, therefore, we choose the other. And hope for the best. And rely on the ability to change our choice should we need to. Hopefully we will know if it is right or if we should change before it is too late.
*- For what it is worth, I could never become an atheist. At least not until I learn to spell it correctly and not athiest. Thankfully, spell check exists and corrects me every time. Equally thankfully, God is easier to spell.