Robert Frost“When I was a kid, we had to walk five miles to school in the snow uphill—both ways.” A grandfather’s tale
Robert Frost’s poem is legendary.
The grandfather’s tale is legend too, but more on the lines of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
Frost’s protagonist chose to take a different path in his life. What happens when your new path is forced upon you, when you are given not the choice about which path to walk but only how you will walk it?
There are pains in my life that I would never have chosen. Never have dreamed up or imagined. Hardships I would not wish on my most vile enemy (well, maybe not these, but I wouldn’t protest to a divine flat tire or botched hair-coloring).
Who would ever imagine losing a child? Or that a child could be malformed, stillborn, and teach you one of the most valuable lessons in your life without them ever taking a single breath?
Who would have imagined a second or third child that was “special” that would lead you on a journey to discover your impatience, selfishness, and lack of unconditional love?
Who would envision disease, a marital or financial challenge, or the loss of a loved one that would lead to such spiritual warfare as to make you question your sanity, long for the relief of death, and take you through “the eye of the needle”?
When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, he could have taken them anywhere. There were a thousand roads to take; a safe path, a smooth path, one free from danger or adversity. They had just suffered 400 years of slavery. Wasn’t that was enough privation to last a hundred generations?
But where did God lead them? On a path they could not even have imagined—through the sea where there was no path except the one that God saw (Psalm 77:19).
When God put Noah to work, who could imagine an ark? When God told Joshua to march around Jericho, who could imagine 20-foot high walls disintegrating before him? When God sent David against Goliath, who could imagine a single stone would fell the great foe? The fire from heaven licking up the water of Elijah’s sacrifice. Samson’s strength in his hair. Rahab the prostitute given a place of honor in the lineage of Christ. Who’d have imagined?
How about God wrapping himself in vulnerable flesh and coming as an infant to save a world of hopelessly lost grown-ups? How about a king whose kingdom couldn’t be seen with the human eye? A savior who demonstrated power with weakness, who pointed the way to life through death?
God rarely chooses the obvious path for us because the obvious path is easy and manageable. It requires so little of us. It costs us nothing and we learn nothing from it. And usually the obvious path is the one where we take all the credit for success.
God sees the path that is not yet a path and he points us in that direction. That path requires muscle, heart, sacrifice, perseverance, but most of all, faith in the Guide. It is the path that our grandparents jestingly recant when as kids we complain about the five-minute walk to the bus stop, as adults about our boring job, as singles about being unmarried, as marrieds about being married, as parents about our kids, and as retirees about regrets.
It is the path that—only after we have chosen it (for chose it we must), beaten down the obstacles that mark it (sans any help from Paul Bunyan), endured bruises, scrapes, and scars, and crawled on hands and knees through to the other side—we can look back on in relief, sigh and affirm that taking the path only God saw truly made all the difference in the world.
Is there a path to which God is trying to direct you that you are resisting?
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