For All Who Have Chosen Wrong Roads

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michele morin -wrong roads3

Maybe it’s the bright yellow of autumn here in New England, or perhaps it’s just my affinity for Robert Frost’s view of the world, but I can’t seem to turn calendar pages past the fall equinox without mumbling phrases from “The Road Not Taken.” It’s unfortunate that a glut of 70’s-era posters and way too many graduation speeches have rendered the poem hackneyed, mooring it in its final and familiar stanza:

Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This simplistic portrayal of a fork in the leaf-strewn path seems to veer on past the melancholy of regret that characterizes so much of Frost’s poetry. Hear it in this earlier line from “The Road Not Taken”:

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 . . .

It is both our glory and our demise that humanity has the ability to re-cycle a decision. This was nearly my undoing when I was agonizing over college choices and the selection of a major, but it has gifted both freedom and fresh air to me in my understanding of calling during these years of living past the mid-point.

Picking up C.S. Lewis’s Great Divorce after a long absence, I have been surprised to find not only the expected words about the great chasm between good and evil, but also glorious truth for those who have chosen what they now see to have been a wrong road. Lewis likens the restorative process to the correction of a math problem which (after having shepherded four homeschooled sons through algebra, I can heartily attest) “can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point.”

This is good news to me, for, I can think of a number of things I’d like to “work afresh.” I invite you to join me in taking a good hard look at the elements of your own story that cause you to hang your head or avert your eyes–or go foraging in the fridge in search of something to fill you up.

It turns out that those wrong roads marked with regret are not dead ends after all, so long as we don’t insist on “simply going on.” Or, as Lewis framed it: “The rescue consists in being put back on the right road.” And so, I see that regret, used well and with its sharp edge pointed toward the task at hand like my favorite garden hoe, can be a salutary thing. It can be the gift that sends me in search of a better plan.

For me, the rescue has consisted in agreeing with God about His absolutely positive intentions toward me; rejecting relationship strategies based on a scarcity mindset; and unlearning some negative mental scripts that are so old they came to me on an 8-track.

God’s invitation to the better road resonates in a voice that has remained consistent throughout time:
“Come let us reason together.”

Much of the Old Testament is a song sung by a Jilted-Lover-God, wooing a wayward people in hope of their return. Hear the melody to these lyrics in a minor key:
“Turn away from the path you have chosen in error.”
“I will turn away from my anger and grief.”

And this: “Return to me, and I will return to you.”

In this returning, there is no shame or threat of reproach. Instead, I find a promise of mercy and grace, a blessed assurance that however slight or cataclysmic my misstep, there will always be a way back.

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Michele Morin
I am wife to a patient husband, Mum to four young men and a daughter-in-love, and, now, Gram to one adorable grandboy. My days are spent homeschooling, reading piles of books, and, in the summer, tending our beautiful (but messy) garden and canning the vegetables. I love to teach the Bible, and am privileged to gather weekly around a table with the women of my church and to blog at Living Our Days about the grace I am receiving and the lessons from God’s Word that I am trusting.
Michele Morin

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  • Tracy Nelson

    Thank you, really needing this, in this season. Blessings.

    • It’s such a gift when God brings along the right words at the right time. I’m honored to be part of this, and blessed when I’m on the receiving end. Trusting along with you grace to find our way back every day.

  • I love that image of correcting a problem. Not out of shame but out of discovery. What a difference this perspective makes! Thanks, Michele!

    • That’s such a great way of expressing it, Annie. I love the idea that we can discover our wrong turns, bring them to God with His big loving eraser, and be set on a path that makes more sense.

  • Tasha

    This is a drink of cold water for so many worried and anxious hearts. Thank you for reminding us that there is always a way back, and in the gentlest way, that none of us are above needing that offer to be corrected, to learn. and to return, and that abundant mercy is ready to meet us.

    • I’m so thankful this is the message you received from the post — to be honest, I hovered long over the word “wrong” in the title because, even though I deeply believe there’s a huge crevasse between “right” and “wrong,” I don’t think we need to be throwing people over the edge of it with harsh judgment. Everyday, I am thankful for the way back God has provided in grace and for the abundant mercy that meets me there.

  • And to change our course, God provides a bridge built of forgiveness.

    • YES!
      And it’s amazing how He meets us on that bridge, running toward us with joy.

  • Michelle, I heard someone use Frost’s poem to teach maturity is learning to make a decision and move on. I like how you have brought in God’s grace. If we discover we made the wrong decision we can turn around and return to the loving arms of our Father.

    • And I think it takes courage to come to that point of turning around. There’s always so much work to the mental process of admitting a mistake — but then the relief that comes when the sum is “put right” and “worked afresh” and we continue on a path we would not have found otherwise.
      I appreciate your sharing your insights about Frost’s poem, and of course, it’s always good to hear from you!

  • This reminds me of the discussion about Troy in Jayber Crow on your blog – how he was nearly unmade but went back to being himself again. He had the opportunity to make a change but went back to the familiar and the habitual. That can seem so right in the moment, but how gracious God is to stop us in our tracks sometimes, and how we need to be ready to turn back and let Him change us.

    • What a perfect example of someone who insisted on “simply going on” rather than working the problem “afresh.” At every stage of life, it’s important to stop and do the work, to join God in what He’s doing.
      Thank you, Barbara, for thinking of that connection!

  • Such words of wisdom here, Michele. We can always take a new path. And God always welcomes us.

    • I love thinking about God’s warm welcome, and I’m afraid that the reason some have found it difficult to change paths is their concept of God. An expectation of harsh recrimination or shaming is enough to send anyone further down the wrong path.
      It’s so critical that we communicate a biblical balance of God’s perfect holiness alongside infinite mercy and grace.

      • I think so too. Unfortunately they don’t realize how much God would welcome them, do they?

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Michele,
    Oh how I prayed that my son, who had wandered down a wrong road in life, would be “wooed” back to God’s beating heart of love for him. Oh so thankful for a God who continually pursues us and gently guides back onto the road marked by His will. Wonderful post.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Bev, it had not occurred to me to think of this post in terms of loving and praying for a prodigal. Your words give me a renewed gratitude for God as loving Parent who stands in the road watching for the much-loved child and rejoicing (without judgment) at the first sign of a return home.
      Blessings to you!

  • Stacey Pardoe

    I’ve seldom made it through autumn without reciting Frost’s words either, Michele. Thanks so much for the reminder that regardless of the choices we made when life’s road made a fork, God’s grace is sufficient for every misstep. This was beautiful and true and timely for me today.

    • Yes, I’m thankful for this truth as well.
      Thanks for your encouraging comment, Stacey.

  • Ruth

    I like C.S. Lewis’ analogy of the math problem. I suppose that can work for all kinds of mistakes. I’m so glad that God is merciful enough to grant us permission to rework the problems instead of just giving us a big red “F minus”. Otherwise we’d all be sunk.
    Thanks for the reminder that God’s invitation to return to Him is not fraught with reproach but with mercy instead.

    • Yes, and we are most like God when we extend forgiveness, so I’m trusting for grace to make that merciful, reproach-free reception part of my response as well. There’s plenty that I need to “work afresh,” and I want to be a safe person for others who have the same need to start over again in some way.

  • Not a dead end but rescue and being put right again. This is simply beautiful Michele and sings of hope.

    • Debby, I have rejoiced more than once as I’ve read the songs of hope that have come from your faithful heart. So thankful for the grace that gives us the right to offer a new road and a loving God who meets us at every turn.

  • Jerusha Agen

    Such a hopeful post, Michele! Thank you for this reminder that we need not so greatly fear choosing the wrong path, because our God can restore and bring us back to where we need to be again.

    • When I forget this truth, I can find myself paralyzed and indecisive, and every choice gets over-the-top (and fear based) analysis. We’re blessed to be following a Shepherd who is much more interested in leading us on right paths than we are in following — and He will never fail.
      Thanks, Jerusha, for reading and for joining the conversation.

  • What a reassuring truth, Michele. God is the one who calls to repentance as well as to returning. And the call is not spiteful or threatening or shaming, but welcoming, gentle, and gracious. I appreciated your quotes to help illustrate this today!

    • I’m always happy to play hostess to the words of C.S.Lewis and Robert Frost.
      And it’s a pleasure to meet with you here, this morning, Bethany!

  • Love this, Michele. It’s the kind of thing I need to preach to myself. “For me, the rescue has consisted in agreeing with God about His absolutely positive intentions toward me.” Yes!

    • Argh, yes — me, too.
      Even after all the evidence to the contrary, I still slip into a pattern of doubting God’s motives. But we’re learning, right? And fueling our perception with Truth in our brains. Thanks for your leadership in this, Lisa.

  • pastordt

    Beautiful, Michele. Thanks so much.

    • I appreciate your encouraging presence, Diana.
      Blessings and love to you.

  • Thank you for these words, Michele and for the reminder that we can abandon that wrong road and be set right after all.
    Blessings!

    • I’m thankful for God’s new-every-morning-mercies that promise a fresh start.
      Thanks for reading, Marva!

  • It was so reassuring to come to the end of your post and read the words – “Return to me, and I will return to you.” Such comfort in knowing that no matter how wrong the path, God is always willing to have us back on the right path with him. Thanks for your beautiful ministry, Michele!

    • Oh, Carlie, your words are a gift to me.
      And my heart melts when I think about every return to God being met with a welcoming gaze that’s already turned in my direction, waiting with love.

  • Such a good reminder, Michele. It’s so easy to focus on the missteps, and forget that the Lord’s spared our footprints leading back to that divergent path. There’s growth, healing, and ministry to be had along the way. Nothing is wasted. — Thanks for sharing, friend. xoxo

    • Clearly, you know my tendency to make my home in the negative, so I need to keep going back to those promises of forgiveness and welcome, mercy and acceptance. And then God folds in the ragged edges every time and stitches together a whole and beautiful welcome mat.