Traditionally, most pastors have passed their libraries on to the next generation of preachers. In truth, this is where a fair portion of my own library came from. I had more or less assumed that one day I would do the same thing. But things have changed a bit lately.
The advent of digital formats (and e-readers especially) has meant that many younger pastors no longer desire to accumulate large collections of physical books. I do not necessarily blame them. If I had of come along a little while later in history, I might have preferred to have built a digital library as well.
In India, however, things are still much as they once were here. There is limited access to the internet and to digital material. This is especially the case in rural India. As a result, young pastors there still value physical books.
And because of this, I have felt led to pass the bulk of my theological library one day on to young pastors in India, who are largely unable to acquire a library on their own.
But whatever the reason, the exercise itself has been rewarding. I have come to realize that I have any number of books that I really do not use and arguably do not need. So I am allowing myself the freedom to part with them – something I would not even have dreamed of doing just a few short years ago.
Another benefit of this process has been the rediscovery of certain long lost books within my library. Indeed, coming across a book you once valued and consulted regularly is like happening across a long lost friend. One such book I have rediscovered is a book of Robert Frost’s poems.
Just a small paperback, it was technically a seminary textbook. We were required to read the poems it contains out loud to one another in class as a way of mastering the art of reading in public. In theory, this helped us with pacing, inflection, enunciation, and any number of related factors.
Among the poems in this book is one in particular that I have come to love, having read it many, many times personally, and having also used it in the pulpit on multiple occasions.
Moreover, the meaning behind it has taken on increased significance for me as I have aged (and hopefully matured). I thought I would post it here today. It is written in Iambic Tetrameter and titled The Road Not Taken.
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.
I first heard this beautiful poem as a college student. It was shared by the Dean at Mercer University during orientation. As entering freshmen, we were rightfully being encouraged to go our own way, and not just to follow the crowd.
At that time, I was somewhat intrigued by the poem; but I failed to appreciate the full significance of Frost’s words. This was probably because I was closer to the beginning of my life’s journey back then; whereas I am now closer to the end of that journey.
In any event, we eventually realize that what once seemed like relatively insignificant decisions on the road of life very often prove to have substantial consequences. And as we do, hopefully we are reminded to thank God for how He guided us through life, even when we did not recognize and/or appreciate His prodding. In fact, we shudder to think where we might have wound up without His gentle nudging.
Little wonder then that the Word of God (in Isaiah 30:21) gives us this admonition: Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."
And when that little voice speaks to you, it is best to trust and obey. For “somewhere, ages and ages hence”, you will invariably be glad you did.