THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
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.
This well known and much loved poem by the American poet Robert Frost has been the subject of many different analyses since its publication in 1916. The image of a traveler confronted with a choice of two paths at a fork in the road, is a powerful one. Frost himself said that the poem was about his friend Edward Thomas, an indecisive hiking companion with whom he spent much time debating which path to take!
Despite its mischievous and honest origins, the metaphor is multi-layered and rich whether or not Frost intended it to be so. The different paths are 'just as fair' as are those open to us in our lives. Marriage, consecrated life and priesthood are all life-giving choices, each with their joys and struggles. But when presented with two choices, often we cannot travel both. In a world where material success and power are so often pursued, consecrated life and priesthood are very much the roads less traveled.
Nor are the full consequences of the choice visible from the place of discernment. For however long we stand at a fork, looking down the paths, we can only see as far as the bend in the undergrowth. To know what lies further on that path, the choice has to be made. That is why the time as a novice or postulant is often considered 'continuing discernment'. To try out one's vocation as a priest or religious is to grow in understanding and your relationship with God.
Read the poem to yourself slowly. Imagine yourself to be in this yellow wood and at the crossroads. Think about the opportunities and possible paths you could take in life. Making yourself open to God's power in your life choices could take you down an unexpected path. Being open to His will may make 'all the difference'.