“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” - Robert Frost, The Road Less Traveled
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
I’m not sure when it started, but ever since I was little, I have loved taking unfamiliar trails, going down paths that seemed a little deserted, a little less known…leading to who knows where? I barely remember but have been often reminded, how as a 5-year-old boy, just having learned to ride a bike, I woke up one Saturday morning and took off and didn’t come home until 5-6 hours later, long after lunch. I faintly recall cruising down park paths, winding through neighborhoods, and eventually ending up circling the outskirts of our city and experiencing a mild panic as to how I would get back home. And even then I remember feeling the pull to try another unknown path. To this day I’m not really sure how I even got back home. To any parent, this story will cause some anxiety. God was obviously watching over me.
My dad and his brother loved riding dirt bikes and by 6, I was riding in circles around a field behind our house on a 4 stroke Suzuki 80. It didn’t take long for that field to start feeling way too small. By age 12, I had a posse of friends with dirt bikes and 3 wheelers and we would spend our Saturdays riding from dawn to dusk on acres and acres of land that began with wide-open dessert-like sand pits we called "the Flats" and then turned into wooded trails through tall Pine forests along the banks of the Sabine River. Wherever we went, the lead rider was responsible for one thing only - finding as many new trails as possible!
Or maybe it was the pasture at the end of our street where I would go alone or with friends to explore, camp out, and hunt squirrels and rabbits. Or the creek directly behind our house where we built forts or fished for turtles until a big thunderstorm hit, the water levels rose, and we would grab an inflatable raft or pool floaties and ride the temporary rapids like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to the edge of the city limits. It was a long walk back home, but so worth it.
Growing up, our family spent many summers in Colorado, hiking up trails to old abandoned gold mines (one that my grandpa started himself), splashing in beaver ponds, and occasionally attempting to summit a 12-13Ker…we didn’t always make it to the top because we didn’t always follow the marked trail!
There has always been something over the next horizon, around the next bend in the path, or curve in the river that calls to me.
By the time I got to college, I had traveled to Mexico and Venezuela to help build a church and play soccer for the purpose of sharing the good news about God’s love for mankind demonstrated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was thrilling to take a 16-hour train ride through the middle of the night from the southern border of Texas down to Aguas Calientes and fly over the Caribbean Sea and kick a ball around a pristine field tucked away up in the Andes mountains. By graduation, I had spent two summers teaching English in Taiwan and was about to start my first full-time job in Taipei, a bustling city 14 hours by plane and 7,800 miles away from my hometown. No one in my family was surprised.
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Not everyone is called to go around the world, but we are ALL called to make disciples of all nations and be Christ’s witnesses in our own “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. Jerusalem is your surrounding community. Judea is your surrounding province or state. Samaria is your nation. The ends of the earth might require you to go overseas, but today more than ever, and especially in the United States, the ends of the earth have come and moved in right next door. The calling for us all is to GET OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONES to make Jesus known. For that to happen though, you need to look for and follow the paths around you that others are ignoring. Take the road less traveled and engage the people you meet traveling on it with God’s truth and love. This might look like you and your family reaching out to another family in your neighborhood who don’t speak the same language as you and whose culture is different from yours. Share a meal together. Share stories. Share life. Share Jesus.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
The best trails I’ve taken in my life are the ones that have led to unexpected and rewarding relationships with people who don’t look, talk, think, believe, or behave just like me.
Now, as a father of three, with a daughter and two sons riding by my side, I am once again on the lookout for new trails, leading to new experiences, and new adventures!
I once heard this described as “Living Near The Port”. I’ll never forget sitting in a small living room, in a small city in China, as a single missionary with a group of individuals and couples of all ages from a dozen different countries and listening to an elderly colleague from Scotland (with the coolest accent) describe how Paul was so effective as a missionary because he always lived near a port and was willing and ready to jump on a ship and sail to where God called him. This retired businessman who, along with his wife, had chosen to spend their retirement years passionately fulfilling the Great Commission on the other side of the world, challenged us all to keep our hearts near the port.
And finally, the challenge for some of us who are always going is to learn to stay connected and/or reconnect with those we have left behind. My family and I have recently experienced some reverse culture shock after living in Asia for 5 years and coming home suddenly and unexpectedly due to a global pandemic. We had become so used to connecting cross-culturally with people in very small group settings in living rooms or over meals (in a country that does not allow open and public expressions of faith) that it felt uncomfortable and challenging for us after returning to the States to attend our large Sunday worship gatherings at church or even Sunday School class.
Sometimes the road less traveled is the road back home.