For All Who Have Chosen Wrong Roads


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.