Following the road less travelled

A reflection for The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Jerusalem.

January 2022

Psalm 16 & Matthew 11:25-30

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen

Journeys are hard, physical ones especially now in the time of Corona when movement restrictions are something not only faced by the oppressed but faced by all. We are all faced with choices about which path to take, will our route be closed to us by restrictions? Or will we be able to pass through easily? One route might look more attractive, and easier to navigate but is that always the route we should take? The poet Robert Frost illustrates this choice in his poem “The Road Not Taken” where he is confronted by a split in the road and has to decide which route to take. He looks down each road and sees little difference between them, recounting:

And both that morning equally lay,

In leaves no step had trodden black

The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost1

When we travel alone, on a path we do not know, we have no idea what to expect. Will we repeat the plaintiff cry of the Psalmist “Protect me, O God, for in You I take refuge” or will we continue down that path knowing that He is the “path of life” and safe in the knowledge that God is with us every step of the way, regardless of how well trodden that path is.

Every day we get to choose which path we will journey on. We can choose our own path, or we can ask our Father to show us His way. Although each path in life may look the same — same circumstances, same struggles, same heartaches — they are totally different. The path our Father leads us into is His presence, and there we find fullness of joy! This joy is not limited to a fleeting “feeling”; it is a gift that strengthens from God.

When we journey with the Lord, we realise that our Father is with us, He is our protector, He is our hiding place, He is our provider, He will never leave us, and He will never abandon us…He is our peace, our hope, our salvation, and our comforter. Christ Himself is our shield and exceedingly great reward!

Although initially crying out, the Psalmist sees this everlasting support from God as he puts his trust in Him through his time of need. Is he on a journey? In the physical sense, we will never know, however, we are all on a journey through life and at certain points along that journey, we need to stop, choose a path, and rest in the safe and certain knowledge that God is walking alongside us.

That well trodden path may lead to a dead end, a stopping point, something unexpected. When we reach an unexpected point, we may feel disappointed, confused, scared, or all of these at the same time. But the path we chose, and how we chose to journey on that path, can often lead us to a better place when we put our trust in God.

Once he has walked his chosen path, the poet Frost takes time to reflect and concludes

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 Not Taken, Robert Frost

In this lies the challenge. Do we continue down the same paths that have been well trod, or do we take a chance and follow the path less travelled? We know that God is always with us, He is our refuge – always there when we need Him, He is our guide and counsellor along the path, and we are secure in Him, so why shouldn’t we take that chance in heading towards the unknown.

We don’t have to take that new path alone. As Matthew reminds us, God is by our side, He is ready to lift our heavy burdens along the way and grant us much needed rest, but we should also be ready to bear those burdens with others. We need companions to join us on our journey whether it be a trip to somewhere special or a journey of faith. It is much easier to face a long journey with others than it is alone, we can combine our gifts and talents to resolve difficult situations, we can combine our wealth, even if it is limited, to help others less fortunate than ourselves, and we can combine our voices to create a strong chorus to call out against oppression and wrong, wherever we see it along our chosen path.

This is the Christian unity we are called to reflect. We are much stronger together as a Church, as companions on the road, as friends together supporting one another and working for the good of all people. We can still keep our individual identities, customs, traditions, and liturgies, as Martin Luther King Jr put it, “unity does not mean uniformity”2, but it does mean that our differences, unique ways of thinking, and common prayers can come together as a beacon of action, support, and prayerful guidance as we act as companions to one another and to all people as we travel along the paths of life together. Taking the path that has been less travelled may indeed make all the difference.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now, and evermore shall be. Amen.

  2.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (2011). “Why We Can’t Wait”, p.99, Beacon Press

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