Posted January 15, 2010 in New Millennium:
The Fork in the Road

by Fr. David May.

It was a very annoying situation in a most beautiful setting. I was on vacation in Maryland, walking along the Atlantic shoreline. The autumn day was sunny and pleasantly warm. The ocean waters were calm, remarkably so, as the waves broke gently over my feet and massaged my toes.

Finally, I sat down on the white, sandy beach and looked out at the scene so filled with memories of childhood days spent there, and brief visits since, year by year. It was then I realized that life had brought me to another fork in the road.

The funny thing is that I’d been there for some months, maybe almost a year, but had not realized it until that moment. It turned out to be not a very pleasant place.

In my mind’s eye one road beckoned to the left; it was a path of rebellion against God’s will and of self-seeking (my own particular brand, of course).

To the right lurked the road of endless service and doing the "right" thing. I won’t go into why I felt more drawn to one than to the other. The disheartening discovery was that both choices seemed like death, and not the good kind of death you read about in the Gospels.

Sure, we know that sin is death; but what if doing good doesn’t seem any better?

Yes, I was in a sorry state, but the ocean just kept peacefully lapping the shore, and the clouds kept sliding silently across the sky, knowing exactly where they wanted to go. I wished that my life could be that simple.

However, since I am neither wave nor cloud, it wasn’t. So I took out my notebook and penned a few lines on the topic of my state of being, which, as often, was only revealed to me clearly as I tried to put words to it:

Today I paused at a fork in the road
To find myself impaled
On the prongs of a beastly instrument,
While the sun climbed with evident skill
The slippery, blue-shred sky.

Then came some lines about the agile sun laughing at us earthbound types, followed by a description of the two pathways:

It was agile as a young primate
Scaling the jungle canopy,
Mocking with simian gaiety
Loam-bound life below.
To left endless rebellion
Seething with passion and rage.
To right slavery of service
Conformed to infinite need.
Death to left and to right,
Both lungs punctured, collapsed
By the twisting thrust of destiny.

Hmm. Those last lines seemed a bit grim. But on second thought, they felt pretty close to the truth, so I left them that way. Then I turned to the Lord and simply asked him for help:

I sat, unable to move,
But listened, as before.
The voice of morning lay perfectly still,
At noon not a breath of air.
Only at evening the slightest breeze,
Whispering like the flight of stars…

And then came some words that were somehow blessed by the Lord himself as he showed me a new way, a new path, that I had either never known before, or had forgotten about:

"But why are you afraid?
Did I not bring you here
To this place of necessary conjunction,
Where everything tried now fails
Save the voice you once lived by
But lately have lost to care?"

I sat there on the beach, kind of stunned, but grateful. The Lord in his mercy was showing me something so deep, so important: that there is always a way open to us, one that transcends both rebellion and the "slavery of service."

This is the road of listening to him, moment by moment. It is the trust of a child freshly awakened to the gift of life.

His guidance, his voice, is like a golden thread that reveals the path through every moment, every suffering, every challenge, every decision. The call, and yes, the challenge, is to commend oneself to that voice over and over again.

That will certainly never lead us down the road of rebellion. But nor will it lead us simply to obligation or duty, which smacks so much of what St. Paul calls "living by the law and not by faith."

So, I arose from my place on the beach and headed back to the parking lot. Was I just imagining it, or was my step a little lighter, a little more sure?

"What next, Lord?" I asked. And I realized that in the coming days, I would be asking that question many times, with a more expectant faith than I had before.

O Lord, you who are Master of every time and place, of every year and season, guide our steps and lead us through life’s shadowy maze into your own wonderful light.

And bless our world this year with an awakening to your path of Resurrection lifting us up from earthbound life to the heavenly one, even while here on earth.

Blessed New Year to all.


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