[From the archives.]
The Road Less Traveled Wasn’t
Everyone has heard a motivational speaker, a high school valedictorian, a preacher somewhere, who has used Robert Frost’s poem’s last lines as encouragement to be bold enough to take the road less traveled and – they solemnly assure you – that will make all the difference in the world in your life.
That’s not what the poem says, though.
Frost was much more cynical than that. Read The Road Not Taken and see for yourself:
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 travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Every time Frost says one path looked different from the other he then says they were actually “just as fair”, “about the same”, or they “equally lay”. What’s all this nonsense then about taking “the one less travelled by” if each path looked as traveled as the other?
It’s about ego and not wanting to be bothered to retrace his steps. He knows that “ages hence” he’ll look back on his moment of decision and, as happens with the passing of time, convince himself with a sigh that he took the better path even though there was not one whit of difference between the two. But he’ll tell himself that he chose the one “less travelled” and that his life has been the better for it. His poem suggests he might even believe it himself.
Frost has done us all a favor.
The Good Old Days
Nostalgia is an interesting lens. We may have fond memories of years gone by for good reason. Other times, our memories are faulty and we fill in gaps to cover over what actually were some not so good times.
Either way, we need to be careful of assigning over-importance to those memories.
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. (Ecclesiastes 7:10.)
It’s not that we are never to think of what has come before, of course. The Bible often talks of remembering. God remembers his people (for example, Exodus 2:24), and calls us to remember him (as in Exodus 7:18).
And yet God says there is a time not to remember.
Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. (Hebrews 10:17.)
God promises in that verse that nothing we have done will be held against those who belong to him. How can this be? Because our sins and lawless acts – acts which certainly deserve remembering, deserve punishment – have been taken care of by Jesus.
As John tells us, Jesus “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Revelation 1:5.) Did you notice that John used the past tense? That’s why God does not remember our sins, because they are no longer part of our lives.
So when you look back on your own life, whether you actually did take a road less travelled or not, remember that God looks on your life as free from sin and so should you.
[This originally appeared as a guest post at Becky Wilson’s blog B.A. Wilson Writes.]