“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 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.”
-The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
As a kid who loved to read, this poem captivated my imagination and I believe, spoke to the deepest parts of my soul. I have never been very interested in following the crowd. I have often made decisions that are unpopular in whatever group I am in. I have always seen beauty in the road less traveled.
There is a problem with this, however. The powers that be in our world want us on the well-traveled path. A mob is much easier to control than free thinking individuals who support one another’s free thoughts. The powers want you to conform, to fall in line, to not rock the boat.
As a young man, I somewhat glamorized this poem in my mind. I remember being struck by it in eighth or ninth grade when I heard it for the first time in my English class. Though I can’t remember exactly what grade I was in, I do remember the classroom and the teacher like it was yesterday. I remember Mrs. Stanton reading this poem to us and I remember never having felt the power of literature before the way I felt it that day. Take the road less traveled…it will make all the difference. I do not believe that poem convinced me to live my life a certain way, but I do believe it awakened something which was already lying dormant deep inside my soul. This is what great literature is supposed to do to us.
As I entered my twenties I began to think that as I ventured down the road less traveled people would follow me. Surely by the time I reached my thirties people would follow the example I try to set of not bending to societal expectations. Unfortunately, I must tell you that in general, the opposite is true.
There is a great cost which comes with following Jesus. There is a great cost which comes with challenging the ruling powers and authorities in this world. In the moment it may not seem worth it. In the moment it will likely feel lonely and futile. But history remembers.
History will not remember those who go with the flow. History will not remember those who simply stay out of trouble and follow the status quo. Make history friends. “Be the change,” as Gandhi would say. Be the change in small ways and be the change in big ways. Do not remain silent when racism is spouted around you. Do not stand by when someone, anyone, is being spoken down to. Look that homeless person on your corner in the eye. Acknowledge everyone’s humanity.
We challenge the powers in our society by being kind to those who are overlooked. We can challenge the powers in our society by giving dignity to those society tries to strip it from. Here I think of orphans, the elderly, the homeless, those in prison, addicts. Any of us can show love. This is a big way we can fight the power.
How far will we go to stand with the oppressed? How much are we willing to pay for doing what is right?
In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo he can take the blue pill and wake up tomorrow as if nothing ever happened, or take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. This is the option we have once we begin to think about engaging the powers that be in our world. We will either take the red pill, or we will have to try desperately to forget the red pill exists. If we take the blue pill we will find ourselves being angry at those who suggest there is something going on behind the curtain. We will fight to maintain the mirage of the blue pill. We will join the mob. The mob shouts for the release of Barabbas.
If we take the red pill our life will be changed forever. If we take the red pill we will find ourselves unable to look the other way when we see injustice. Once we see the truth of the matrix in our world and we see the way the various systems of our world push some down while propping others up we will find ourselves looking for ways to make a difference. We can make a difference friends. Another lie the powers will tell you is that you are just one person and cannot make a difference. Do not listen to that lie. Push against the powers with everything you have. Choose to love and care for “the least of these” with every opportunity you get.
Do not give up.
They will try to discredit you, they will try to shut you up and they will try to decrease your influence. But don’t give up. The powers will tell you there is no hope for that woman pushing a cart. The powers will tell you if that homeless man is on drugs he does not deserve your care. The powers will tell you murderers and sexual offenders are beyond redemption. The powers will tell you Muslims are your enemies. The powers will try to encourage you to hunker down in a bubble and protect your family from the world.
Do not hide. Do not turn away. Engage the powers. Prophecy the love of the crucified God to every demonic force which seeks to take advantage of the weak. In the words of the great poets Public Enemy, “Fight the power”! A single small candle in a pitch black room will change everything. So, in the words of another of my favorite philosophers, Bob Marley, “light up the darkness”.
Bring beauty where everything is ugly. Bring light where everything is dark. Bring truth where there are lies. Do not ever let the powers silence you. Do not ever let the powers break you.
Change the world.
Peace be with you friends.