This Way of Life: A Little White Church Lenten Journey

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 It was an early spring day. Mud season had arrived and the shining sun had yet to warm up the cold air outside. Coats and boots were still needed as I pulled mine off and settled into my church office.

I had a full day ahead of me and I had really wanted to write my inspiring message for the community Lenten lunch that was just a day away.

Hmmm…maybe I can find the God moment in mud season.

The knock on the door was a welcomed interruption. The invitation that came with the knock was even better. My Lenten message for tomorrow’s lunch would have to wait.

A woman from a neighboring church wanted to take me to see the Old First Church in Bennington, VT, which according to her was just “a hop, skip and a jump” across the New York State border.

I was looking forward to seeing this church as I heard it was famous for its soaring pulpit in which one would have to climb many steep steps to preach from. So on went my boots and coat and out we went.

Within a hop, skip and a jump we were at the church. It didn’t disappoint. There before me it stood in all of its 1762 Colonial architectural glory. It had the quintessential New England white clapboard similar to that of the little white church I served as well as doors on each of the pews.

I was enthralled, which really doesn’t take much to make that happen for me. Simply show me 18th century clapboard, wide plank floors, multi-paned windows, black wrought iron light fixtures, complete with a heavy dose of old musty wood smell, and I am in heaven! I explored the old church not yet knowing the God moment that was to come.

“Come on, let’s go out to the cemetery. There is something I want to show you,” the woman said, urging me on.

I wasn’t sure what was so exciting in the cemetery but I hurried along following her out onto the squishy grass and mud that led to many weathered headstones.

“There. Look. Bet you didn’t know Robert Frost was buried here?” she said pointing in front of me.

“Robert Frost? No way. Really?” I looked at the headstone with the poet’s name etched in it and whispered the line to his poem that was given to me just a year ago:

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

I first came across Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” when, one summer, during my chaplaincy training at a hospital on Manhattan’s Upper West Side my supervisor shared it with me.

It was quite clear to him, as it was to me, that I was not being called to be a chaplain. Heck, I had spent the first few weeks of my hospital training just trying to get over my own white coat syndrome. And so these meetings with him touched on the nuts and bolts of praying for the sick and grieving and soon then became a conversation about the “Donna” God had knitted and woven in the womb and where was God calling that Donna to serve.

As the summer continued on I was soon sharing with my supervisor the dilemma I had. I was interviewing with two completely different churches. One that looked good on paper—great facilities for ministry, a staff, healthy budget—and the other, a rural church with an aging facility, no real staff to speak of and a budget in need of what I call a “loaves and fish” miracle. Of course, I was more interested in the church that looked good on paper. Who wouldn’t be?

Two roads diverged in a wood…

Each week as I discussed the possibilities with my supervisor, he listened intently, never offering any real guidance. Rather he asked questions, many questions, when all I wanted was for him to answer for me what to do and where to go.

Before I knew it, the summer was over. My chaplaincy training was complete, but the question of where I was heading next was still open ended.

I walked into my supervisor’s office for my last meeting in which he would share with me his evaluation that he had written up. I was ready for the typical “Donna’s empathy demonstrated in times of crisis was blah, blah, blah” and “Donna’s understanding of praying for the sick was blah, blah, blah.”

Instead, the evaluation was a heartfelt and inspiring affirmation of my call to ministry with an extra bonus—finally, his answer to my never-ending question of, “What am I doing, where am I going?”

He affirmed a ministry I didn’t even recognize as a ministry as he encouraged me to keep on writing. No matter how busy life as a parish pastor got—“keep on writing,” he typed in bold and underlined.

He also encouraged me to trust my heart to where it was leading me and to never be swayed by what others say or 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 then looked up from the written evaluation and, as if he was 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.”

We said good-bye and soon thereafter I was saying hello to serve a little white church up north on the border of Vermont, where unbeknownst to me the roads Robert Frost himself traveled upon were just a hop, skip and a jump away.

I took the road that didn’t make sense to others but would be the road that would eventually lead to my future husband and where my heart would finally feel that longed for sense of home.

I stood at the headstone with Frost’s name staring back at me and in that moment I had the incredible sense of God’s loving guidance. I had a sense of who the Donna that God had knitted and formed in the womb was.

“Are you ready to go? It’s not as warm out as I thought,” my unofficial tour guide said.

I turned to follow her back to the car and as I walked the mud beneath me squished. I stopped and looked at the path in front of me. Two paths diverged: One that was not muddy and well travelled and the other that was slick and messy and squishy and to be avoided at all cost.

Guess which one I chose?

Squish. Squish. Squish.

I felt as if I was walking on holy ground. My boots were a mess but my heart was full. For as left Frost’s resting place I knew exactly what my supervisor was trying to tell me. Live authentically. Follow your heart for your heart will lead you to joy. Take the road less travelled, for when you do you will discover it makes all the difference in your life.

It’s a road filled with amazing God moments mingled in the mud.

I had my inspiring Lenten message for the community lunch.

This Way of Life Lenten Challenge: Jesus says to us all, “Come and follow me.” Often that call asks us to embark on a road that is the one less traveled. Find the courage to travel it and know that it will make all the difference in your life. For, yes, God moments are found on that road.

IMG_1951

The muddy path leading to the rail trail behind the Accidental Country Pastor’s  little red house in Vermont. It’s a path that always brings to mind the words of Robert Frost about taking the road less traveled. 

 

 

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