Road Not Taken– Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, 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 marked 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 travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The road divides before us on the journey we travel. The choice, made on a coin toss, a hunch, some inside information, reveals a way to follow. Will we look back with regret that the road we chose, more or less travelled, led into an oasis of superficial dreams and predictability? Will our choice have the fingerprints of a Divine interloper interjecting into our dreams and pondering, leading us towards the untraveled way; the way of simple humility, of a babe born out of wedlock and in run down backwater towns reeking of animal dung and innuendo?
There is a long road that would-be disciples step out on, a road leading south to the city of diverse reputation – Holy city of God and faithless city of injustice. The path leads through the Olive Garden, on a donkey, along the via dolorosa, the way of suffering, to nails and wood, violence, blood and death. He bids us follow! Will you venture out on this journey with him or are there better things for you now? There’s a movie on the TV, and the footy is waiting. Surely work and family, bills and investments wait to take your time and your heart away from this journey of futility. Do you want more excitement, an adrenalin rush, the ‘quick fix’ of a rock concert or some other thrill, because this journey isn’t for the faint-hearted or short-term trendies. Nor is it for those who rush on by unseeing and too quick or busy to ponder the wondrous surprises before their nose (and eyes!) along the way. Do you want to wonder with the Artist at the heart of the Universe, the poet-laureate of infinite metaphor and the one whose sense of humour delights the curious and ponderous?
‘Come with me,’ he tells the mob who walk along sharing stories and visions of another way in a world drawn down by unimaginative despots who rule the masses in power and fear and take what they want from the little ones who have no recourse. Power in his hands is love – given, shared, received and lived. It is the Big Bang of love that bore the universe in ecstatic joy and wonder and visits upon us in vulnerability and grace. Ever-present, gentle as breath but persistent as a hungry hound, love comes bounding through the brush, playfully gathering us up for the game of life.
‘Come with me,’ he says and asks, ‘But, who do you think I am?’ We don’t know. Well we think we do because we learned it early and well but why does he ask? Does he know our response and is it wrong? Peter, you tell him. You’ve got the big mouth, so make an idiot of yourself – or claim the glory if it’s right. Peter, ‘You’re the Messiah, the Christ (if you prefer my Greek!)!’ ‘He rebukes me! Did you get that, he rebuked me. I was right and wrong he said and told me I spoke evil words – what is he on??’
In Caesarea Philippi, a town where religion and politics mixed in a cocktail of devoted affectations and grovelling, Jesus told the followers of the way about the way that they were about to wander – a long journey to Jerusalem, where Roman Imperialism and Jewish religion colluded to maintain a status quo for the few over the rest. There he would take a stand and the dark powers that dominated their world would stand up against him. Death and suffering was awaiting his well-intended but doomed path – he said so. Beyond this death was life, what or how, he didn’t speculate. Three times down the road he spoke words of gathering doom and each time they grew darker and more foreboding. Those who wandered with him failed to grasp these words, after all how could the Messiah be the Messiah and yet be dead? All they saw was power and glory and they wanted in on whatever it was he was going to achieve – well anything that wasn’t about death and suffering – the glorious stuff sounded good.
We too, would prefer a journey that leads to blissful awareness in a feel-good space that resounds of future glory and is free of the grubbiness of political and economic invective. We may like something that lifts us out of the despairing places we may stumble upon on that chosen path at its crossroads and forks, its choices, vain-glorious and hope-filled. Perhaps that journey lies elsewhere with some other tour guide, one plucked from the plethora of self-help manuals that fill shop shelves. There are gurus of media ever-ready to set us straight or political would-be’s that would buy our allegiance and promise us the world (‘Bow down and worship and I will give you…’).
His words along the journey speak of another world, another reality that is filled with promise for those who will see and hear. Like the blind man, Bartimaeus, who asks for sight and is praised for his insightand vision and his choice to walk a new path behind this one who sees into the mind of God (something that will take Paul Davies and the ‘New Physics’ another 2000 years to achieve!). Jesus walks the way of the prophets before him, taking their visions and their sweat and blood-soaked words that cry out for justice in the name of God. In the name of God, the leaders tell them where to go and run them out of the city – the status quo is important. There is a tradition to uphold, never mind the law and the Spirit – they won’t feed you or sustain a lifestyle! The system dominates people and they have no recourse and this story continues in the journey of people who worship and lust after power, might and wealth. The little ones have no voice – who will speak for them? God has no voice – who will speak for God? The cry of the One whose word moulded mountains, placed stars, gouged river-beds and spread floral and faunal beauty around, goes out: ‘My world, created in love, is for all to share – enough for everyone and justice at its heart. What have you done? Why won’t you hear? I want justice and love in your hearts, rather than wowed-up worship, saucy sacrifice or even deep dogma – I want justice for all because that’s how I made it to work!’ The words of God unheard or unheeded – who will hear? Who will yield to them? Who will take them into a dark world that is hoping and longing?
So we journey in lives of choice and none. We journey with others or alone, down country roads or city streets, through death’s dark vale or into joyful bliss. We journey with choice in our heart or decision imposed and we will wonder, one day we will wonder! Was our choice the one we’d make now if we had all the knowledge in retrospect, the wise insight of all-seeing eyes and twenty-twenty hindsight? But there is no space for regret or looking back over our shoulder because we continue onward and other choices come our way. The voice continues through millennia, ‘Come and follow me.’ The way spreads out before us through rough and rugged, smooth and gentle and the way is in this world and of another Reign that transcends all life, hope and belief.
This way is the way of participation with Jesus in the dying-rising life that gives itself up to find itself and where the first ones are last and those at the bottom rise to the top like the bubbles of a fermenting new wine or the rising loaf that feeds the new world – body and blood. The way is of non-violence as a community builds up around the shared story and meal, inclusive, just and compassionate. We journey together in the way of the cross, the dying-rising life where we are invited into new choices around giving up pretensions, addictions, expectations that weigh us down, grief and guilt and shame that hold us captive. These are the choices of a prodigal son coming home or the oppressed slave in Egypt accepting the challenge to flee behind the mysterious Moses. It is the way of mystery and wonder – an opening Red Sea before the pursuing Egyptians, a land flowing with milk and honey, a promise of hope – and justice. The choice is to let go of that which binds us, holds us and hinders our following of this new-old way behind the wandering Rabbi in Galilee. Who will we follow? Which way will we wander?
You might like to write, paint/draw, play some music or do something in response to these thoughts…
Some Questions to help you Reflect…
- As you read through the passage of Mark’s Story what parts of the story leaped out at you? Are there any parts that you want to explore more or that speak fresh thoughts to you?
- What in the reflection made you feel positive, hopeful – what was good for you?
What in the reflection caused you concern, anxiety or confusion – what was less good to/for you?
- Do you have any curiosity questions’ questions of wonder you might explore?