John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.” What if? We all ask the question from time to time. With Robert Frost, we pause occasionally to remember the roads that opened before us over the course of the years and wonder what might have been had we trod the ones not taken. The choice of roads make all the difference. I am grateful for the roads I chose, but I also know those others I did not choose to take would have made “all the difference” too.
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.
Two roads lay open to the Christian Church in its infancy: The way of Rome and the way of Greece. What if the Christian Church had chosen to take the way of Greece?
Jesus said, “Seek and ye shall find,” and “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” The Greeks found this easy to understand, but it was very hard for a Roman. The Romans were organizers, and an organization is not a place where people are encouraged to seek or to be free.
“Like a mighty army moves the Church of God.” That is a Roman, not a Greek idea. Greeks could not tolerate unquestioning obedience or for doing and saying and thinking what everyone else does. Greeks wanted to think for themselves. Romans distrusted anyone who was different. They wanted their people to be unthinking people—a people who would do what they were told.
Romans thought human nature tolerable only under strong control. Humanity was evil. This was far from the Greek way which saw in every person a spark of the divine. The Greeks said with Jesus, “The truth shall make you free,” but neither Jesus nor the Greeks said, “This is the truth.” Both talked about God, but they did not attempt to define God. The Romans, on the other hand, made authoritative declarations about the things unseen and demanded that it be received without question.
Ah! it is true, the road we choose makes all the difference.