Illustration: Anyone else read Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” in your school days?
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.
An enduring archetype in literature is the path/road/journey. It makes sense why. Man has to choose which way he will go. Hither or yon? This road or that one? This job or that one? This person in my life or another one? This school or that one?
When I teach this poem to my students, I ask them what they think it means. They usually say something like, “Well, it takes courage to go down the road less traveled. But I’m brave, so that’s the way I’m going. The world will see because I am, if nothing else, in charge and determined.” Um, might there be more?
Scripture: Hebrew poetry uses the archetype of the path/road/journey, too. When my son was younger, I used to help him memorize several of the Psalms. Psalm 1 was one of his favorites. It speaks, like Frost’s poem does, to the necessity of choosing, and of the consequences of our choices. In Psalm 1, David contrasts two types of people—the wicked and the righteous, the one who walks with the evil/wicked in contrast to the one who walks with the good/righteous.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
Alternatives: The speaker in Frost’s poem says he will be telling of his journey “with a sigh” (line 16) in retrospect. He seems to be looking back sadly and in much grief. He is ruing the choice(s) he made. In Psalm 1, David teaches by way of contrasts but he teaches so that those who heed the teaching might see the consequences before it is too late. The good man is compared to a fruitful tree. He is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season” (v. 3). On the other hand, the evil man walks “in the counsel of the wicked” (v.1a) and scoffs (v.1b) and mocks. He is one who—for now–laughs at the idea of God and of God’s judgment. In Frost’s poem, the speaker looks back with a sigh. In David’s psalm, the wise man is blessed but the fool perishes.
Encouragement: As I watch my kids grow and develop and choose, they are a microcosm of a much bigger story. We are all choosing whom we will serve. Are we choosing God’s way or man’s way? Are we choosing wisdom or folly? Are we placing our reasonable faith in chariots and horses or in the name of the LORD our God (Ps 20:7)? I pray we are choosing wisely. Seems to me much is at stake.