From the Desk of Pastor Howie
“Two Roads Diverged…”
Nehemiah 9:19 Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pil-lar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take.
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.
The poem above is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. In a way, like Jeremiah 29:11 has been my life verse for many years, this poem has been my favorite and my “life-poem” for at least as long. I look back at the path that I have traveled, particularly over the last 25 years or more that moved me from an active church layman to pastor to soon-to-be-retired. I would never have dreamt that my life would have wound around like it has to get me to this point.
Where and when did it all begin? Maybe it was being raised in the Catholic Church even though I did not understand much of it. Maybe it was marrying Nancy, who was a nominal church goer when we met and became more active through the years. Maybe it was our 2 year old who went to church with Nancy and came home one day saying how great church had been than asked me why I didn’t go to church. Maybe it was the movie “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Actually, it was all of these. As I reflect on my path, I see God’s hand in it from very early on. I, of course, did not understand it as I went through most of it, but God set me on a path and, fortunately, steered me back even when I tried to go astray.
In good Methodist terms, God’s prevenient (before) grace was active in my life even before I ever recognized it. Just as God guided the Israelites through the desert with a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, He did the same for me. The Israelites did not know where God would lead each day. They had to trust him that he would keep them from danger and lead them, eventually, to the promised land.
That path is not reserved for me or for pastors alone. If you will allow him, the Holy Spirit will lead you along the path that God has chosen for you. It may have twists and turns. It may also lead you to places that you never expected to go and, sometimes, even to places that you would have really tried to avoid. But if you have faith in the Lord and trust him, he will lead you on a path that, someday, you can reflect back on and see. You will see the unexpected; you will see the detours; you will see the hills and the valleys. But you will able to admire the glorious journey that God set out for you.