The phrase ‘The Road Less Travelled’ originated back in 1916 through Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road Not Taken,’ using part of the last stanza:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
There are two schools of thought for Frost’s meaning of ‘I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.’ The more common thought is choosing the road less traveled proved meaningful. The second interpretation is that, though at first the paths seem different, upon closer inspection the fact was time ‘Had worn them really about the same’ (second stanza quote). Therefore, perhaps the poem’s point is that there will always be a lingering wonder and possible regret for ‘The Road Not Taken;’ the alternate life not lived.
Books have been written using the phrase and the premise that choosing the road less travelled makes a positive difference. The most notable are by Dr. Scott Peck. ‘The Road Less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth,’ along with his subsequent similarly-themed books, are New Age classics, though he did not label himself as such. Another is simply entitled ‘The Road Less Travelled,’ a devotional book by Charles Cravey, a 39-year pastoral veteran of the United Methodist Church. Based on his years of serving others, he writes poetry and articles on life and living, success and failure, trial and error.
Biblical inferences to roads less traveled imply they are the better choice. Matthew 7:13-14 talks about entering the narrow gate, for the wide gate leads to destruction. Proverbs 14:12 warns a way may seem right to man, but it may lead to death. Isaiah 30:21 says ‘Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk [ye] in it.” However, mankind is innately independent. Man’s initial nature does not like being told what to do, especially by an unseen authority speaking through an ancient text associated with centuries of controversy about whether it really is the inherent Word of God, should He actually exist at all. Therefore, believing and following God daily, through faith, is a road less traveled.
Statistics on religious followers, however, are interesting to note: Christianity 2.3 billion, Muslim-Islam 1.5 billion, Non-religious/atheist 1.0 billion, Hindu 900 million and Buddhist 400 million. Based on these statistics, Christianity actually seems to be the Road Most Travelled. However, there is a difference between identifying with Christianity as religion and living in daily relationship with God. Basic religion is a system of beliefs, not necessarily internalized as a code to live by. Being in relationship with Christ means He has become an integral part of my identity, evidenced by the way I live my life. Religion can be seen as a set of rules; we all know the 10 commandments, and the harsh punishments meted out in the Old Testament days. Nowadays stealing and killing, of course, remain punishable offenses. The rest have been relegated to good character traits: Honoring God, honoring parents, faithful to vows, truthful, and contentment with one’s own lot in life. In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus basically re-stated the Ten Commandments into two. He said the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and the second is to love others as yourself.
Loving God and loving others involves subordinating my own wants and needs as necessary. Because of my relationship with Him, I want to seek God’s will before I make decisions, not because there is a set of rules to live by, but because it is my desire to follow where He leads, knowing it is for my good. By studying His Word, praying for His guidance, and daily inviting His presence into my life, I follow the path He has set before me, even if it appears overgrown and difficult. As time goes by, I have learned that what was once a difficult path, has proven to build my character, strengthen my perseverance, and anchor my faith more firmly in Christ for future successes. And though now and then I may nostalgically think of the road not chosen, I know that by following God’s leading I chose the better path, and it has made all the difference: ‘This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Jeremiah 6:16.