“Two roads diverged in a wood and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” ~ Robert Frost
We all travel life’s journey. And we come to crossroads. They may be thrust upon us with a divorce, a death, a job change. Or, we may feel a need to emigrate to a new universe. Either way, we feel lost. Disconnected. Which way to go?
In her book When the Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd writes:
“If you think God leads you only beside still waters, think again. God will also lead you beside turbulent waters. If you have the courage to enter, you’ll think you’re drowning. But actually, you’re being churned into something new.”
When we’re at a crossroads in life, we can often feel like we’re drowning. But truth be told, we’re being churned into a new being. And it can feel murky and unsettling.
Let me share a personal story. Years ago I came to a crossroads in my writing life. I had been somewhat successful in journalism earning some prestigious writing awards, but I also was feeling burned out and wanted to fulfill my gifts and life in other ways.
Sue Monk Kidd writes about this in her book Traveling with Pomegranates.
“I felt like my writing had gone to seed. A strange fallowness had set in. I could not seem to write in the same way … now something new wanted to break through.”
I had always loved the counseling field and after years of my own personal archaeological dig into therapy, I felt I knew what this was like. I hoped that as a therapist I might make a difference in people’s lives and help them discover their own strengths and gifts.
I loved my graduate courses in psychology. And although I was nervous, I was excited about my nine-month internship at a counseling center.
Then it happened.
I thought I had learned about “boundaries” and how to be objective, but I found I was going home with everyone’s problems. Susie’s addiction; Joe’s bad marriage; Mark’s anxiety and depression because of an abusive upbringing.
Friends told me to give it time — that I would learn to put up stronger boundaries. But how could I do that when I felt such empathy for my clients? That ability to “feel deeply” for others became a blessing and a curse. My clients stayed with me through the nine months because I honored where they were and hopefully reflected to them their own strengths. But me? I was slowly burning out.
Truth be told, fear reared its ugly head and I left the field. A mistake? Perhaps.
But I also believe this. Every experience, every choice in life, whether we judge it as a mistake or not, teaches us and enriches us if we allow it. All detours really are in some way for our greater good and lead us to where we need to be, whether to a new landscape or a new horizon on our souls. Those “roads less traveled” do indeed make all the difference.
For some reason, the scene from the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy meets the Scarecrow keeps coming to mind. She asks him the way to Oz and the Emerald City and he points to the left and the right and can’t seem to make up his mind. But he and Dorothy take a deep breath and choose one path.
If they had not chosen that path, they may never have met the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. And although they travel many alternate routes and face many challenges, eventually they do end up in Oz.
Here’s what I believe — when we are at a crossroads and choose a path — whatever it is — and if we have an open heart and trust in the Spirit within, we will be guided. Whatever raw material of faith we offer the Divine, we can trust it will be used for our good.
Will the uncertainty of our choice be disturbing? Most likely. Will it be hard? Maybe. But it also might be exciting and fun. And no matter our experience, I believe that life is about growth. We are often placed in an uncomfortable place or space so that our hearts and spirits might burst open. The crossroad is in our lives so that something “new” might break through.
You will survive. You will make it. And guess what? You will discover strengths and gifts waiting to break free, waiting to be claimed by you. For you. For the world.
You will make it to the Emerald City. You won’t drown. And you will be churned into someone new.