The Road Less Traveled

Now that the school year is over, one of the things I’ve incorporated into my day is a regular exercise routine. I’ve found that the more I exercise, the better I feel–physically, mentally, and emotionally. The trifecta, so to speak. Anyway, when I walked my route this morning, I saw things that reminded me of a poem by Robert Frost and then gave me the words I wanted to write for this post when I came back. I took pictures and started mulling over the phrase “a road less traveled” as I walked. By the time I was done, I knew I was going to use the phrase in some form today.

When I first saw today’s devotion, I thought of a couple of different titles for this post than the one I ended up using. “Be Present Even When People Walk Away”  or “Be Present When You Feel Lonely.” The title of the actual devotion is “Be Present Where You Are,” and it’s talking about putting your phone down to be present in the moment. Now, I’m not saying I couldn’t stand to be less reliant on my devices, but those other words were the first that came to mind. I’ve had people walk away from me to talk to someone they considered more valuable. I’ve thought of something to say in a group of people, but by the time I said it, they had moved on to another topic. See what I mean? Lonely. Undesirable. Odd. Different.

But, there’s that word again. Different. It brought me back to Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” and it brought me back to what I wrote on Monday about being brave enough to be different. ( Then, I knew I had to change the title. My life has been a series of “taking the road less traveled” events. We’ve only owned a home once. We chose to have just one income so we could homeschool. We don’t have the latest gadgets or clothing. (Yay, Wal-Mart and thrift stores!) I’m different, and people don’t know how to react even when I’m trying to do the things God has asked me to do. I liked what the author had to say. “God loves us so much that He gave us His everything, and He asks us to love others the way He loved us. Loving others means being present with them in their pain, being present with them in their joy. It means being all there.” (100 Days to Brave, Annie F. Downs)

This also reflects today’s Bible verse. From John 15:12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” I try to reflect this in my own life, but sometimes, my presence isn’t what’s wanted or needed. It’s a lonely feeling–not feeling like I’m part of a community.

Then, though, I think back to the poem and to Micah Tyler’s song “Different,” and I think, maybe, that’s the point God is trying to make to me. Maybe I’m not supposed to be invited to the parties or be a part of the conversations. Maybe right now, God wants me to be in the wilderness and not be a part of the community. I don’t know. I don’t know if withdrawing is the answer or continuing to struggle is. I feel so unsure of my value to my community. It’s deep-rooted and deep-seated inside my psyche. But, I know I am valuable to God, and I think that’s where my focus needs to be because it is what has made the difference in my recent struggles.

As I finish this post, I want to quote the poem and the song so you can see the words that started my thoughts rumbling. May God bless you all today!

“The Road Not Taken”

by Robert Frost

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.
by Micah Tyler
I don’t wanna hear anymore, teach me to listen
I don’t wanna see anymore, give me a vision
That you could move this heart, to be set apart
I don’t need to recognize, the man in the mirror
And I don’t wanna trade Your plan, for something familiar
I can’t waste a day, I can’t stay the same
I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
In me
And I don’t wanna spend my life, stuck in a pattern
And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters
And so I’m giving up, everything because
I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different; oh-oh
I know, that I am far, from perfect
But through You, the cross still says, I’m worth it
So take this beating in my heart and
Come and finish what You started
When they see me, let them see You
‘Cause I just wanna be different, ye-ey
I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Oh is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
I just wanna be different
So could You be different
In me

Brave Enough to be Different

Including today’s post, I have fifteen more posts to write before I am done blogging through the book 100 Days to Brave. It’s been an interesting journey. It’s been an educational journey. It’s been a journey full of sadness and of joy. And it’s been a journey where I’ve learned about myself and my faith. Today’s post has been on my mind for a few days, and it’s almost a relief to get the words out of my brain and onto the screen. Be patient with me. It might not make sense at first, but I promise, I will pull it all together by the end.

I heard a story a few weeks ago. Someone was telling me how they didn’t like to talk about what they were interested in because no one around them was interested in it. They thought Jesus might think they were rude  if they weren’t focused on their friends’ interests and concerns. My first thought was, ‘Wow! This person really gets it. They could be the poster child for teaching others what it means when Scripture says we’re supposed to deny ourselves.’ Just as I was recovering from this thought though and from what I thought this person could teach me, they said something that struck  me. They were lonely. Now, I’m not saying they didn’t have anything at all in common with this group of people. They share the same faith; they share some similar interests; they like spending time together. But, it wasn’t enough for this person not to feel lonely. They even told me they were looking forward to branching out in the next few months and meeting other people who shared their interests.

This got me thinking because I’ve often felt this way in a group of people. Lonely. Odd. Weird. Different. We all come at faith and denial of self differently because, well, we are different. God made each of us differently. But, is there such a thing as being too different in the church to be accepted for who we are as a person? Should we have to deny ourselves completely to be accepted? There shouldn’t be a thing as being too different, but sadly enough, I think there is. Some differences are okay, but when the differences get to be noticeable, rejection happens. We are uncomfortable with what we don’t understand so we avoid it.

I think about the differences that are noticeable and the ones that are not so noticeable. I think about the ones I know who have left the church because they were too different and not accepted because of it. I think about the ones who don’t come that often because they haven’t been able to connect with others because of their differences. And I think about those of us who make the effort week after week though we are lonely within the crowd and not even sure we are making a difference by being there. (That would be me.) My mind wants to understand why this happens, but I don’t think I’ll know for sure until I see Jesus.

So, what does all this have to do with denial of self and being brave enough to be different? First, I get the part about not being selfish. I Timothy 6:18-19 says, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” God doesn’t want us to be selfish. I agree with this and embrace it, but it’s not what I’m trying to say.

Scripture also gives us several examples of putting off our old self and sinful nature. From Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Of course, I agree with this. We’re supposed to put off our sinful natures each and every day so we can become more like God. We won’t be totally successful until our journey here is done, but we’re supposed to keep trying anyway. I also embrace this, but it’s not what I’m trying to say either.

I guess what I mean is deny ourselves and embrace our differences. The church should make sure all know they are welcome. Race, gender, physical illness (Even the ones that can’t be seen.), mental illness (Those definitely can’t be seen.), financial status, marital status, occupation, age, different interests–none of those things that make us different should manner. None of them!  We should embrace Jesus and embrace what all of us bring to the table. But until that happens, I will be brave enough to be different out loud so that others will know they aren’t alone.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!