As we turn again to greet the opening days of a new year, we stand at the place where two roads diverge. Therein lies the dilemma, but also the privilege of choice. Which road will we choose to follow? Which direction, priorities and ambitions will take precedence and influence our decision?
The American poet Robert Frost lucidly described just such a moment of bewildering hesitation in his poem, The Road Not Taken.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent to the undergrowth.”
Frost recounts how he finally took the other route, keeping at the back of his mind, the possibility of returning someday to the starting point and then exploring the other road too. Yet how seldom this happens in life as way leads on to way. Although the roads present little difference to the searching eye, there lies beneath the fallen leaves a multitude of possibilities, the ‘what if’ questions, and the consequences of living with our decisions.
The adventurous, the innovative and the curious will step onto the chosen road, anticipating stimulation whilst the dutiful safe-guarders may opt for more familiar, well- trodden paths. But despite the most assiduous preparations and forward planning we realize that over the horizon there lies daunting terrain and challenging surprises.
So, do we stumble and grope our way into the mist of the unknown, or do we make a conscious decision to seek the light of divine insight in the company of God who sees the way ahead?
Our nation and indeed our global family of concerned people waits in bewildering uncertainty as man’s inhumanity to man, greed, corruption, neglect and incompetence threaten the stability and security of our world and waste, squander and abuse its precious gifts and even the out-flowing of creative thought.
The artist and thinker Ai Weiwei recently mourned the suppression of the “free exercise of informed imagination.” Freedom of expression, he concluded, is the foundation of humanity and we cannot afford the liquidation of democracy.
As we contemplate the direction of flow in global affairs, we cannot avoid the point of reckoning over what is good and trustworthy and what is ignoble and destructive.
At just such a momentous time in the history of the early Israelites, the great leader Joshua gathered all the tribes together at Shechem. He reminded them of the many great blessings, provisions and times of restoration that they had enjoyed under the protection and guidance of God. “Now”, he said, “Today you must choose whom you will serve.” Then he confirmed, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24v19)
It is for us, a worthy exercise to address the same question, reminding ourselves of the many mercies that straddle our history, both personal and national. When we acknowledge the Giver of all good gifts, the source of forgiveness and joy, the guiding light on the path of peace and hope, then we may stand at the divergence of the roads with renewed faith and trust.
“I cannot read His future plans
But this I know
I have the smiling of His face
And all the refuge of His grace
While here below.”
May the peace and light of God guide us all to a safe and Happy New Year.