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Friday, January 6, 2012

I Chose "The Road Less Traveled" And Was Wrong

by Dustin (bio)

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."

Three months ago I was heading to the Stake Center for an early-morning seminary in-service meeting. I had only been to the Stake Center once and it had been several months earlier. Now it was 5:15 a.m. and pitch black outside and I took a back road to avoid the stoplights. As I was heading east, in the general direction of the building, I started to doubt if I really knew the way. It only took four turns to arrive at the building, but one wrong turn could land me in Galveston, a city famous for hippies and smelling like rotten fish (and also not the location of the Stake Center).

I approached a street named "F.M. 1128." Houston is maddening because streets can carry several different names over the course of a few miles. I knew I was to turn on "Main Street" but suddenly found myself doubting if this was the same road. I looked right, then left, hoping to see something in the dim light that might jar my memory. Noting that I was running a bit late, and not wanting to arrive tardy to in-service, I said a quick, yet sincere, prayer in my heart that God would reveal to me if I should turn right or keep going straight. I waited for an answer. Nothing striking came, so I turned right and felt pretty good about my decision. As I headed down the road I found my surroundings growing darker and less familiar. Then the road veered back to the west and I knew I had chosen wrong. I quickly flipped around, headed back to the main road, and continued several miles before finally finding "Main Street" and eventually the Stake Center (with a minute to spare!).

The remainder of the drive I sat pondering why I had felt so strongly to turn right down what I would eventually determine was the wrong road. What's the point of praying for an answer if I'm simply going to choose wrong anyway?! I then thought about a recent life experience where I faced a decision between two very different life paths. I prayed and fasted for clarity, then pursued the road I thought was "right" with vigor. I followed my decision for months, investing considerable money and time into this endeavor. All the while I fasted and prayed that I was doing the correct thing for me and for my family. Two months ago it became strikingly clear that the path I had chosen was incorrect.

Some of you are likely reading this and figuring either a) I am immune to the Spirit, b) I'm a bad decision-maker, c) I'm a slow learner or d) somewhere in the recesses of my subconscious I actually did want to be in Galveston. All are likely true at times, except for the last one. Some of you can probably relate with my errant decision-making. These moments when I needed clarity have stuck with me for some time and left me wondering "why?" Why did I feel like this was a good path to pursue when, in the end, it wasn't? The answer came to me in Sunday School this past week. The teacher shared this anecdote from a New Era article by Elder Holland's son, Matthew, entitled "Wrong Roads and Revelation." The two of them had been out hiking and were returning to civilization when they came to a fork in the road. Elder Holland did not recall which path they had come in on and so they stopped the car and prayed. In Matthew's words:
"As we did whenever we had a family problem or concern, we prayed. After we both said amen, Dad turned and asked me what I thought we should do. I answered and said, "All during the prayer, I just kept feeling, ‘Go to the left.’”

Dad responded, “I had the exact same impression.”

This was my first experience receiving and recognizing revelation.

We started down the dirt road to the left. We had traveled only about 10 minutes when our road came to a sudden dead-end. My father promptly whipped the truck around, roared back to that fork in the path, and started down the road to the right. Fortunately, there was still just enough light to help us navigate the web of dirt roads that would take us home.

We were almost back to St. George, now on roads my father knew well, and the thick darkness of the night was lit by pinholes of thousands of stars.

I was troubled. With my head resting on my dad’s leg and my legs stretched across the seat, I asked, “Dad, why did we both feel like Heavenly Father told us to go down the road to the left when it was the wrong road?”

My dad said, “Matty, I’ve been thinking and silently praying about that same thing all the way home, because I really did feel a very distinct impression to take the road to the left.”

I was relieved that my first experience with revelation had a “second witness.”

He continued, “The Lord has taught us an important lesson today. Because we were prompted to take the road to the left, we quickly discovered which one was the right one. When we turned around and got on the right road, I was able to travel along its many unfamiliar twists and turnoffs perfectly confident I was headed in the right direction.

“If we had started on the right road, we might have driven for 30 minutes or so, become uneasy with the unfamiliar surroundings, and been tempted to turn back. If we had done that, we would have discovered the dead-end so late that it would have been too dark to find our way back in totally unfamiliar territory.”
What a profound answer to the question I've had for the past several months. Choosing the wrong path allowed me the blessing of following the right path with more confidence! After correcting my route and heading to the Stake Center, whether I realized it or not in the moment, I pressed forward with confidence, knowing I was heading in the right direction. The same is true of my recent life decision: my investment in time and money was a small price to pay for discovering the right path. I can now follow the path I'm on with full confidence, and that, as Frost says above, "has made all the difference."

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