Today in the Mission Yearbook

Taking the road not taken

 

Step out in faith and be amazed

March 28, 2020

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

Two direction signs pointing in different directionsI hadn’t read this poem in years and so, when a friend recently included it in an email, it brought back memories.

It was during my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in Manhattan that I was introduced to the work of Robert Frost. My supervisor, realizing — as I did — that I didn’t have a call to chaplaincy work, but was there to fulfill my presbytery’s ordination requirement, would refer to the poetry of Frost during our weekly check-ins as I grappled with where God was leading me. “The Road Not Taken” was his favorite poem to quote.

As if the daily grind of hospital chaplaincy weren’t emotionally draining enough, I was also interviewing with churches. As the weeks went by, most of my supervisory meetings were spent talking about the churches I began courting. Halfway through my CPE training, the church search was down to two suitors. And boy, they couldn’t have been more different.

The first, outside of Washington, D.C., offered great facilities, a healthy budget and a robust membership. The other, a rural church somewhere in the Northeast, was surprisingly forthcoming about its aging building, shoestring budget and graying membership. I couldn’t believe when my supervisor asked which church caught my fancy.

As I continued exploring the future possibilities with these churches, I discussed the pros and cons of each with my supervisor. Frustratingly, he never once offered advice. He just listened and asked questions.

As my time at the hospital came to an end, I was no closer to making a decision. One last time, I walked into my supervisor’s office for my evaluation. I was prepared for the typical scorecard detailing where my strengths were and areas to work on. Instead, I was given a heartfelt affirmation of my call to parish ministry. There was also a bonus. I finally received my supervisor’s answer to my question of “Where should I go?” The answer, though, wasn’t what I expected.

He affirmed a ministry I didn’t even recognize as a ministry, encouraging me to keep writing. No matter how busy life as a parish pastor would get, “keep on writing,” he typed in bold and underlined. He then advised me to never be swayed by what popular opinion might be.

“Trust your heart, even when your heart leads you to places that do not make sense to anyone else,” he wrote. He didn’t have to say anything else. That rural church was tugging at my heart.

He then put the evaluation down and, as if delivering a benediction, he sent me on my way with the words of Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

I left the crowded streets of Manhattan and placed my feet on a dirt country road that was foreign to me. It led to a rural church that many had said “no” to serving. I took that road and it has made all the difference — in my faith, my ministry and my life overall.

The roads less traveled are the ones that really do enrich your life. They are the roads where you meet the most amazing people and make the most precious of friends. They are the roads with little churches often ignored that, when given a chance to shine, can be a powerful testimony of how God can create something out of nothing. They are the roads where God moments are abundant.

I pray that all our churches have the courage to step onto the roads of ministry not often taken.

I took the road less traveled and it led to a life I never had imagined, that of a country pastor. I took that road and find myself now walking the same woods that inspired Frost when he lived in Vermont. And every time I see a fork in a road, I make sure to take the path I have yet to be on.

Donna Frischknecht Jackson, Editor of Presbyterians Today 

Today’s Focus:  Stepping Out in Faith

Let us join in prayer for: 

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Rachel Anderson, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Shelby Andrews, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Let us pray:

God of love and life, may we have the faith to dream big and not be swayed by popular opinion. May we not fear the potholes or the dead ends or the roadblocks that we will encounter. And may we remember you, the One who calls us and never stops guiding us safely onward to a destination we never envisioned. Amen.