The Road Less Taken
By: John H. Campbell
"Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it."
-Matthew 7:13-14 "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 onto 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 took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference"
-"The Road Not Taken", by Robert Frost "If you choose not to decide,
You still have made a choice."
-Geddy Lee, Rush
I have to admit, I never have quite understood the timing of the New Year, why it is celebrated on the first of January, and not some other time. In reality, I know that it was originally set on the Roman calendar, and if I spent some time reading about it, researching it, or looking it up on Google there is likely some reasoning for the timing. What I find even more confounding than how the timing came to be, however, are the rituals in which the majority of our society implements to celebrate the observation of it.
For example, I have never really understood the tradition of the desire that many possess to consume copious amounts of alcohol and become excessively inebriated to celebrate the passing of one year into the next in an orgy of drunkenness, even in the days long ago when I used to revel in it. It certainly isn't that I have any judgments about anyone choosing to partake of alcohol. While I have chosen a life free of alcohol for over 13 years, I am the last one to judge the choices of another, so long as they are not driving while under the influence or putting others at risk or in harm's way. I just cannot understand why anyone would want to enter a New Year in a state which is the antithesis of clarity, reflection and being contemplative of the year past and the one dawning.
I also fail to comprehend the entire logic and concept of New Year's resolutions. I just cannot relate to the sudden and urgent desire to finally do the things we know we have either been wanting to do or needing to do all year but have been procrastinating them (assumedly because we "never got around to them") in the form of frequently made but rarely kept "resolutions" (my only one each year is not to engage in what I personally see is an exercise of futility of engaging in them).
Just as I wish that everyone would celebrate the true giving, caring and forgiving spirit of what Christmas has come to represent every day rather than merely limiting good will and kindness to radiate from us from to December 1st -26th, that we should embrace the hope for new beginnings which I feel is embodied in the celebration of the Resurrection every day rather than just in April when Easter is observed, and that we should express affection on other days than February 14th, I think that every single day of the year should be embraced and seized as a gift; as the opportunity to start fresh. In my opinion, it should not be relegated solely to some supposedly magical moment of midnight on December 31st, when we are somehow miraculously seized and inspired with the motivation which somehow seems to collectively elude us the other 364 days of the year.
However, those are but personal opinions. In years past, I once engaged in all of the above forms of ringing in the New Year at different times in my life. I spent many a New Year's Eve too intoxicated to remember - to be immediately followed many a New Year's Day regretting the events of the evening prior from both a physical and mental perspective. I spent many a January keeping a laundry list of resolves until I reverted back to prior habits a few short months later. Hence, my complete lack of judgment of those who elect to spend December 31st in that fashion, or to evangelize their resolutions in a cocktail induced haze, albeit those feelings are still accompanied by a lack of true understanding.
I look back in retrospect and realize that I only engaged in said activities because they were "what everyone else was doing" and "what was expected" socially. The same reasons and poor judgment being employed in making these decisions were akin to the ones that motivated me to make other decisions to do things I really deep down did not want to do or feel right about in my life. Things that were not right for me but were "the accepted norm." Not the best choices, but ones I had to make, and eventually learn from. It further affirms my belief that the lessons which life, experience and God bring to us from our own errors are valuable and never wasted if they do in fact result in our learning and carrying forth the knowledge we glean and are meant to obtain from them.
But I digress. With the expiration of an old year dawning on the horizon and the promise of a new year and a fresh start ripe with possibilities in our thoughts, a few things come to mind. Others may elect to spend the evening of December 31st in a haze of drunken revelry or making commitments and resolutions about what they intend to avoid, eschew or include as new in their lives once the clock strikes 12 a.m., but I have had an annual ritual now for several years I like to engage in as an alternative. I call it my personal "year in review."
It's an opportunity to take a personal inventory of what has taken place in the past twelve months, to reminisce about where I was at this time one year prior, what I was thinking, and what I was doing and contemplate and reflect on where I am headed, where I want to go, and how to go about achieving those things. I engage in a similar process every day during prayer and meditation, but at the end of the year, I give it a deeper focus than usual. That's just the part of me that has some odd internal need for some kind of a holiday "tradition," I suppose.
I don't always segregate this "review" to New Year's Eve, but often begin considering it during the month of December and sometimes even as early as November, when I engage in my annual thoughts about all of the things I feel grateful for in the past year around the time we observe Thanksgiving (again, that's another one of those holidays I think we should celebrate all the time and that I strive to keep in mind every day - each day is something to be grateful for, and there is something to be grateful for each day). This past year, my year end review and inventory has been a rather interesting exercise.
While I was reflecting on the past year about a month ago, my mind kept referring back to the old poem by Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken" (also sometimes known as "The Road Less Traveled" or "The Road Less Taken", and also referenced in the popular book by M. Scott Peck) and thinking about how it for me represents a parallel with one of the teachings of Christ about "the narrow gate". While there are many legalistic and conservative Christians who take the concept of the "narrow road" or "narrow gate" in a literalistic sense to mean one of harsh self denial, legalistic dogma, and abandoning our true selves in the interest of one narrow (and narrow minded) point of view, I view this teaching in a very different light, as I do many others.
I remember when my father first read that poem to me as a child, and stated what he understood it to mean and implied what my understanding of it should be as well. It is about as simplistic as metaphor can be reduced to: taking your own path, making your own path, and living your own truth even when it is fresh ground being tread and a new journey filled with the unexpected, the new, the unknown rather than just "doing what everyone else does," or walking the same accepted path as everyone else in the interest of ease and conformity. Taking the road less traveled, the road not taken by the many, to me is taking the path which is congruent with our own authentic selves and is the path to happiness, and joy. Even though my personal interpretation is likely drastically and dramatically different in meaning to what my father might have thought, the core meaning is the same, the same manner that the core meaning of many Biblical teachings and parables are the same and hold relevance regardless of context, even when viewed or interpreted from different perspectives.
Then I reflect on the words Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14, about the narrow gate. He speaks in Wisdom of the wide gate and easy road leading to destruction, and the narrow gate and hard road being the one to life - and in my mind, I relate the "road less taken" to be the one which lies beyond the entry of the narrow gate - the road which can present a difficult journey that may seem difficult initially to travel, but ultimately, is the most rewarding one.
When He speaks of the wide gate and easy road leading to destruction-that really resonates with me. The road, the path and the way which I might have chosen to follow all the way was not one less taken. It was one that was followed by the many, and even though it was not the one I should have been on, I had attempted to travel on it for some time and it was leading to a destination of destruction: self destructive behavior, spiritual destruction, destruction of hope and of my true self. That was until I decided to boldly took the leap of faith to trust and journey on the one less taken.
While my own "road less taken" has been a challenging journey, one with numerous twists, turns and forks in the road, but has been but very worthwhile.
I can remember when I have found myself, on numerous occasions in life, at a similar metaphorical "crossroads" as the narrator of the poem. Two paths were presented to me; one was the familiar, the often trodden, the one that society and others both suggested and expected me to take, the one that the majority of cultural and common signs point to, the one established by orthodox religion and the establishment that while at times diverse, always ends up channeling into a specific mold and model in the long run.
I vividly recall several times I was presented with these opportunities. But out of all of them, the most profound experiences related to the processes of realizing, accepting, and coming to peace about my bisexuality and my spirituality and being able to live my life as both a bisexual man and a follower of the teachings of Christ.
I could not come to terms with my sexuality or my spirituality until I was able to freely understand both and embrace myself for who God wanted me to be and Created me to be rather than what others told me I was supposed to be or believe - until I could tread down the road that was not the accepted norm with confidence, faith and trust rather than turning tail and running down the path that I was familiar with - keep in mind, "familiar with" did not equate to "comfortable with."
For the longest time, I had expected to tread the common path - not out of a true desire, or happiness, but out of convenience and a sheer lack of faith. And for a while, I would walk along that often tread path, occasionally branching off from the universally tread for short journeys. I did manage to take less frequented paths, excursions, or side trips once in a while; by refusing to compromise my integrity in the interest of quick gain, or electing to be kind when it would have been more expected, or as some suggested, advantageous that I "stop being so nice all the time" and "look out for 'number one'" (a phrase I have never really cared for). But as I veered more towards a deeper sense of individuality, I moved ever closer towards the less traveled path. However, I began to realize that this would not be the only waypoint nor the truly challenging one. It was as if there were several convergences in the path; the path kept splitting as I would enter a new area of life and the options became more varied. Finally, there came a time when I was presented with some even more challenging forks in the road which I initially met with resistance.
The first really major one came when I was presented with the option of whether I wanted to travel a path of the religion and spirituality which I truly felt and knew to be real in my heart, or the one I was told I was "supposed to" travel by my upbringing, societal norms, and my peers. I had been in a dogmatic and legalistic version of Christianity many of us are likely all too familiar with, and I had been running down the path that I had been told was "the only way" by those who ushered me down it when I initially had sought God during a vulnerable and personally terrifying time in my own life.
But I was beginning to read more and learn more, and listen to my heart and what I was being told God was like was not congruent in the least with my own personal experience of God. I did not subscribe to the "accepted" beliefs. Not only did they not make rational sense to me, they seemed rather unfair and cruel based on all I was learning about the nature of Jesus and what He had to say. Although I was told I was expected to take the Bible as literal in order to remain on this path, I couldn't as my mind and my heart simply would not permit me to do so. So, I had performed the old recommendation of "ask, seek and knock" and I had found a new faith community that did not teach the same dogma and literalism and a new path opened up before me.
And so I had been presented with two opportunities, at the time: remain in a version of Christianity which was the "accepted norm" of what Christianity is, or try a new and challenging but promising path, one which was truly aligned with what I felt about God and the teachings of Jesus in my heart and soul, as opposed to what others told me I should and everyone should believe. The path which was the one less taken was surprisingly the one which the legalistic Christians I was involved with at the time would have interpreted as the "wide gate," as it was one that did not proclaim to possess all of the answers, and which in fact, contained more questions than answers. There were no solid and set, black and white, pat answers handed to me down this path; and the sole compass with which to navigate it was one of personal interpretation based upon experience and only one absolute: that God, however mysterious, was Love and ever present in all of reality, and that the teachings of Christ were the keys to the map which I would utilize to make my way down this unknown path.
Down this road was embracing a new, far more spiritually healthy concept about God and what it is to be a follower of Christ; ideas which were based on freedom with a responsibility to the rest of God's Children rather than limits, oppression and restrictions based in fear, prejudices and closed minded thinking.
There was a multitude of excellent reasons I was motivated into selecting the road less taken at that juncture, the one that I might have been nervous and skeptical of initially, but the one I elected to take ultimately because I knew it was the best way for me, but one particular verse stands out in my mind in retrospect:
"So again Jesus said to them, 'Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:7-10)
The Jesus who I had been reading and learning about (oddly enough, it seemed the Christians I had been worshipping with at the time spent little time really reading Scriptures as I had begin doing, but rather seemed content to select one or two verses which were in alignment with their view and repeat them constantly while omitting others) seemed to me to be directly in the face of the mainstream and orthodox religious teachings of His time. His way seemed to be one where we were to seek God within and in each other, and demonstrate our love, gratitude and reverence for God through love and care for one another rather than a strict list of religious rules and rituals. His Way was one devoid of a heavy and onerous yoke of regulations, and a more simplistic and realistic view to me that was truly timeless and based in love, as was the new path I was contemplating boldly strolling down in the face of and as an affront, in defiance to the irrational fears I had been clinging to out of familiarity if not complacency. I found myself viewing a religious and spiritual outlook which was oppressive and based in fear as allowing a thief to take from me the joy I deep down knew God wanted me to have, and embracing a healthier spirituality as a key to embracing the real, abundant life Christ taught about.
Upon selecting the new path, I was met with horror and resistance by those who were determined to keep me on the one they had wanted me to continue on with them. So they did their best to scare me away from leaving, as seems to be the modus operandi of those who fear one of theirs daring to go a different direction. They insisted that I was "straying from the path" and following the "devil" they spoke of so often (more so than God or Jesus, it seemed to me). As I was moving forward on the new path, not looking back, but proceeding with a shade of apprehension, my mind did recall one of the verses which comes shortly after the previously mentioned one, as it refers to those in Jesus' time in human form responding to His radical and unorthodox (for the time) teachings:
"He is a demon and out of his mind! Why listen to him?" (John 7:20)
I still think back to this today, whenever I hear people calling any other ideas about Christianity rather than legalistic ones false or heretical. It pays to recall when faced with those who insist that the one accepted way is the "only true way" to remember how those in Jesus' day viewed His ideas.
I continued joyfully, if still a bit timidly, cautiously and slowly down this new path, and then would come yet another crossroads, equally as challenging and presenting an even more difficult decision.
Even though there was a time in my life when I adamantly denied it - mostly to myself, but to others as well, at one time. I have always known that I am bisexual and am both attracted to and feel the need for intimacy with both genders. When I had embraced new ideas about Christianity and God, I still knew this and I feel certain I was Divinely guided into a church, denomination and fellowship with other Christians who did not consider being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered to be a "sin," an "abomination," or an affront to God which needed to be "corrected" somehow for a definite reason and felt at home.
Coming out and being acknowledged as a bisexual man was the next fork on the road that I met, and it lead to a path that was even more specific, even less of a wide path, yet it was the only truly honest road I could travel, for this is who I know I am. I found that many doubted and discounted my validity as bisexual or Christian, emphatically insisting that the former didn't exist, and even if it did, I certainly could not be the latter as well. But despite the protests of those who were unable or unwilling to understand my perspective or orientation, I knew I was not unnatural and that this was who I was meant to be. It did seem that so long as I simply stated the fact of my bisexuality rather than express it that they were willing to place my self definition between me and God and let it be, for the most part, even if they disagreed. I felt an overall sense of peace with who I am, and could confidently be out as a bisexual and thankful to God for knowing who I am and being comfortable with that.
But a small part of me was still fearful, and I found myself at yet another, third split in the path. I was fearful that I was required to choose "one way or the other," and that I had reached another crossroads where I was expected and required to make a decision that I deep down knew I could never truly make in reality. I supposed I could repress one half of who I was, and decide to remain defined as bisexual but living as homo or heterosexual and give up a vital part of myself. But that wasn't me. It wasn't authentic to who God Created me to be and I knew it in my heart just as I had known that God was not confined to one universal set of accepted and dogmatic teachings based on literal Biblical interpretation. I knew I did not want to leave the girl I loved nor did I ever want to betray her in a secret affair with another man, nor did I want to say I would never be intimate with a same gender partner again. And that feeling that I had to select what I was going to be in contrast with who I really am was personally devastating, contrary to, and far from the idea of the God I had come to know.
In my heart, just as I believe that it is just as natural for two people of the same gender to be together as it is for an opposite gender couple to be together, and that no form of sexual sharing between consenting adults is "unnatural." I believed and knew deep down as I still do that it is entirely possible for a person to love and be honestly committed to both a person of the opposite gender and of the same gender and that despite what the societal norm might dictate, God would understand, condone and bless such relationships providing they were genuine, sincere, caring, committed and based in honesty and love. Yet, out of conditioning and the pressure of peers, I still harbored the fear that it had come to making a choice between being true to who I am or to God.
I stood at this metaphorical clearing in the woods as I had the other for quite some time. There was no clear, solid path I could envision at that moment and I struggled. I knew what my heart longed and yearned for, but I was still suffering from illusions of fear which I had allowed to cloud my consciousness over the years. At that time, I did not travel one way or the other. I just did the only thing I knew how to do, and had become accustomed to doing. I honestly feel to my knees, opened up my heart and soul, and prayed with sincerity.
In my experience, there are two kinds of prayer. There are those that we say spur of the moment, usually asking for some specific thing or event that is occurring or about to occur to transpire or not, or some fleeting, spur of the moment desire for something we feel we need right that moment, and then there are those deep and profound soul searching prayers, where there is no easy answer, and it is more feeling than praying. I vividly remember going to the church sanctuary in the middle of the night one night alone (I had a key, as I was part of the worship team at the time), falling to my knees in the darkness in tears, and asking; I cannot recall every single one of the precise words, but I do vividly recall this: "Please, show me how to make this work. I know who I am and I need to find the way to be true to who I am in a way that is hurtful to no one. I love You, I trust You and thank You." There was more to it but that was the crux of it; more than anything, it was a longing for clarity on how to move forward.
Regardless of the exact phrasing, I will never forget praying that prayer, nor the profound ways in which it was answered. I will never forget how I felt when I was sitting there alone in the church, in the silence, pouring out my heart and soul and the enormous and profound sense of relief I felt afterwards. I remember that most vividly. With this prayer, as I have discovered to be the case with the most effective prayers we pray, I did not allow myself to be preoccupied with it, nor the outcome, nor how it would come to pass, nor any specific time frame, nor any critical analysis of it in afterthought or retrospect. I simply lifted up my concerns, reflected on them within, lifted them up to God, and let it be.
It's very interesting, and right up there with the things I consider to those "mysterious ways" we all like to attribute to God, but so often I find that when we approach prayer, and especially prayers which are not for any specific given "thing" but rather for guidance in that fashion, how profound the answers are revealed. Often when they are, that is when we really remember praying them. We don't dwell on those longings we felt in prayer until one day an answer comes out of nowhere and blesses us. Which it did, over time, for me.
Suddenly, very shortly thereafter, doors began opening. Doors of opportunity, as well as doors in my own perception. Things I had not read much meaning into, seemingly meaningless events became relevant. I was able to find others who did understand and support me, who had dealt with the same and similar issues. God literally sent angels in human disguise into my life, to guide me, to be there for me, to help me to understand that it was perfectly okay and acceptable for me to be who I am so long as I was honest, loving and respectful of others, and that I could have faith that God accepted me as who I am regardless of differing opinions of others. I was blessed through things I read, new friends who came into my life, and supportive friends and family. It was no contest for me to embark down this new path, perhaps unorthodox and a challenging way, but the one I knew I was meant to tread and that I knew God was illuminating my way on.
Soon after, I was blessed with the relationships I had always longed for with a wonderful bisexual girl and soon after, with a wonderful bisexual man as well, and many supportive friends and family. I am thankful for this being a blessing that continues. It's not always an easy road for any of us. There is no myth of so called "heterosexual privilege" when you are an openly out and active bisexual, and openly bisexual couples get the same if not more condemnation as gay or lesbian couples if not more. But once again, the difficult and less traveled path is the one that leads to the truest and most authentic life - and the truer to ourselves we are, the more it enables us to feel joy and gratitude, which leads to us passing that on to others, and the closer to God we and they become in the process.
One benefit to being true to who I am which I reflect on often is how it has served to make me even more non judgmental of others than I have ever been. There are others, some bisexual like me and some gay, lesbian, heterosexual and those who choose to eschew any type of label to their sexual orientation at all who elect to further expand the boundaries of their relationship to an infinite number of partners. There are combinations I have seen in my experience that I cannot fully comprehend or understand any more than some can understand my having committed partners of both genders. Yet, it is not my place to judge. Not only are we are wisely advised by Jesus the consequences of doing so in Matthew 7, it would be a waste of time and God given energy we could use for better and greater aims. I would much rather attempt to coexist and respect and celebrate differences than proof text or criticize them. I know what has brought joy to my life; it is not my place to determine what should or should not to another. I would rather learn from and see what lessons they can bring into my life than pick apart and evaluate what I may or may not agree with. It would be equally as wrong for me to judge another person who has a different understanding of what possibilities that relationships or marriages can or should be as it would for them to judge me for my understanding.
One could, of course, humorously state that as an actively bisexual man, that I took both paths rather than one or the other, in reality. In some way, perhaps that is true; some could surmise that in the path I chose I took both. But there is a line from the song by the band Rush which I am frequently reminded of: "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." And I did choose. I chose to live my truth as a bisexual, and what that means to me, however unorthodox it might be to some.
Some may see it as threatening or an affront to the acceptance of same gender marriage, when the reality is that it is no more of a threat to same gender marriage than same gender marriage is to the traditional societal definition of "marriage." To others, the very idea of bisexuality (be it expressed through a monogamous relationship, a multiple partner relationship or even celibacy) is threatening to the whole unhealthy "born exclusively homosexual or heterosexual" dichotomy which society seems to unfortunately take more comfort in but which only serves to perpetuate the "taking sides" mentality, a false self-imposed requirement some seem to possess for an "other" which some seem determined to cling to in regards to sexual orientation, with the false perception that one orientation is somehow "superior" to the other. Which, in turn, fosters a sense of inequality. Although research has shown time and time again that a great majority of people fall somewhere in between the spectrum of exclusively hetero or homosexual, the majority of society seems to insist that the opposite is true (that is not to insinuate that everyone is bisexual, it is merely to illustrate that there is not as great a divide between those who are heterosexual and not heterosexual might imagine.) And there are yet others who parrot the same type of misguided concept towards those of us who are bisexual and Christian that they do towards those who are gay or lesbian and who are Christian: "It's okay to be who you are, so long as you never act upon it."
Would we tell someone who was an artist that it was okay to be born with a creative impulse, so long as they never acted upon it? Would we tell someone who was born differently from the majority in some way that in order to be an equal they have to be altered or "fixed" in some manner? There are a multitude of ways to discredit this type of judgment of others, but the point is that no matter what judgment someone may hold against anyone due to their sexual orientation and how they express it, it should never deter those of us who are LGBT and Christian from striving to live our truth in a way which is attuned to the teachings of Christ, meaning that it places Love and respect for one another as the most critical directive of all.
We are ALL equal in the eyes of God - which Christ was teaching - and each of us has our own unique purpose. If we are to fulfill what it is that God has intended for each of us, we do ourselves a disservice if we elect to deny that and attempt to be or become something other than what we have been Made to be. While God will not be angry with or punish us for denying that which we know to be true about ourselves and boldly journey down paths that might be roads less traveled, despite how much courage, determination, and faith that may require at times, it is we who would punish ourselves in attempting to become other than what we are in the interest of following the beaten path. When we are ashamed about who we truly are, it only serves to give rise to low self esteem, a sense of despair and hopelessness, and even bitterness-emotions which are hardly conducive to spreading the type of hope and Love that I feel God intends for us to and that Christ taught and instructed us to.
And that brings me to one other aspect that I always include when I go through the annual process of evaluating where I am, where I have been, and where I am headed. It involves keeping myself centered and in check that I am on the correct path, and it echoes back to the aforementioned prayer I said long ago. Most importantly, perhaps, it is the opportunity to reflect on the question, "Am I on the right path, and how do I know that I am?" It took me a while to determine how to discern whether I was or was not, and this was how I finally arrived at that realization and determine whether I am or not along the journey.
One of the things I had meditated upon and asked following my soul searching prayer was "What is it that I can do, or what am I doing to show and express my gratitude for all that God has done for me?" This request came later, beyond the time which I had found myself in places where I had to reach a waypoint and elect to travel the path which was right for me. I found that during my own ongoing journey of faith that I was naturally filled with a sense of gratitude, which inspired me to have a desire and a need to do all that I could to be there for others in need as I had been.
As each of us in our individuality treads whatever unique and specific path or paths which God has intended for us, we are blessed with unique gifts and a unique purpose with which to enrich some part of God's Creation: as Jesus taught, we are, as He was, the Light of the World (Matthew 5:14, John 8:12), meant to illuminate the path for others, and we are the "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13), each of us intended to provide our own unique "seasoning" to the world through our merely being here and doing what it is we were meant to do. Sometimes, when we open our hearts and simply be, Divine guidance can flow through us to others through our actions, our messages, our words when we open our hearts and approach everything with an attitude of Love.
My goal was then, and remains to be, to do everything possible to offer hope to anyone else I could who had been faced with the issues I was facing, the same form of struggles I was having at one time. While I feel specifically positioned, if not intended to focus on offering hope to other bisexuals due to the unique perspective I am blessed with in who I am, it by no means ended there and still continues. My goal became to offer hope and a way home to anyone who felt distanced or separated from God for any reason or in any way because of who they are or by being in some way different from the "universally accepted," the orthodox, the expected standards. People who desperately long for the hope and peace that accompanies a sense of connection with God yet who experience false feelings of unworthiness of God's Love due to the misguided, selfish and inaccurate accusations of others that they are not worthy - all those who find that sense of Oneness with God elusive for their own fears. Those are who I truly feel called to reach out to - not to preach my specific beliefs or way, because all of us are different as I feel is God's Design and one way is not right for all; but rather to let them know that they have a place and a purpose in Creation and the Grand Scheme of things and are accepted as they are - whoever that may be. Every day now, in addition to "thank You," my prayers include, "How can I help?"
The correct path, the correct way for each of us as individuals may be drastically different in its spiritual geography, journey, and form, and can often lead or take us to places that we would never have initially suspected that it would. No other individual can accurately map this journey out for us, even if some can assist in guiding us in the appropriate general direction; only through trusting and listening to the clear Voice of God from within can we determine the route. The method of discernment of the correct way can only be determined by letting our hearts be the true compass.
But from experience I feel that one thing is certain: if we are fully living the truth of who it is God Created us to be, and we experience joy, fulfillment and happiness while simultaneously not only acting in a way which is loving to and respectful of all others to the best of our ability, but also strives to promote and create the same sense of joy, peace and harmony among others and a deeper awareness of God's Love to all others, then that is an excellent indication that we are headed in the right direction, and down the best possible path we could be on - the one that I feel God intends for each of us.
It is my firm belief that God's Greatest Desire for us is that we are able to experience that moment of clarity when we can fully realize who the authentic person God has Created us to be is, and then to courageously make a leap of faith if necessary, and live that truth with passion while being constantly aware of and doing our best to emulate the teachings Jesus brought us in all of our interactions with others.
What I also know in my heart that we are called to do is live that truth not only in a manner which is loving and respectful of others and hurtful to none, but also in a way which is as helpful to as many as possible. To me, that is what truly sets the call which Christ makes to His followers apart, even though the basic concept is at the heart of many diverse paths to God.
It is not merely ensuring that we are not creating or causing harm to or committing unloving actions towards anyone, but also that we discover ways to share the unique blessings and gifts God has given us with others who are asking, seeking and knocking for those very answers which God has fashioned us uniquely to give as our role in the Grand Scheme of Creation. When you are being who you are, happy who you are, and helping others in the process, you can be fairly certain you are on the Path.
Another sign that you're headed in a positive direction is when things that might seem as if they would be a chore or require a great deal of effort seem effortless. I liken it to the feeling of the person who enjoys the work they do so much that it no longer seems like work. There are many times when I have taken time out of my schedule to go and volunteer or to help someone, even when hours were scarce and I lacked a lot of time to do so. A funny thing I have discovered, though: often when you make the time to do things like that, hours and blessings have this odd way of multiplying until you had more than you originally imagined or visualized, not unlike the story of the loaves and fishes!
Someone asked me a while back-and I have seen this same thing happen with a few friends of mine, as well-how I could "rationalize" making a sacrifice of time off and personal time just to go and help others with no expectation of financial compensation, returned favors, or anything else in return. "How can you do all that?" they said. "What a sacrifice to place that over your own needs. You're too nice of a person." But the interesting thing is, when I do things to help others, it really does not seem like any type of sacrifice to me at all to be "too nice." It makes me happy to know that something I did helped someone - just seeing someone feel better or smile because of something I said or did is a reward. Same thing as when I have chosen to forgive those who have wronged me instead of buying into the societal myth of "Don't get mad, get even," or "Do unto others as they do unto you." Some people say I am crazy for not holding grudges or attempting revenge when I feel wronged. The feeling of being able to return love when given hate is a wonderful feeling. Christ knew this when He taught us to be Loving: that following His way would be healing to us as well as to others, as it would make us one step closer to feeling one with God.
Each one of us has our own method of finding, locating and following our own specific path, our own "road less taken," whatever journey God has authored for us to discover. The great news for me, for any LGBT Christian, any heterosexual Christian, or anyone else is that the path does not include having to give up who you are, and that includes ones sexuality, sexual orientation, or whatever differences we might have on an individual basis. What it does entail is that we find a way to discover, accept, embrace, celebrate and live the truth of who we are in a way which is respectful of others and help others who have faced the same types of issues, struggles and challenges we have from the unique perspectives we are all individually gifted with.
Does the way in which we help others have to be anything of great magnitude or profound significance from the beginning? No, at least perhaps not right away, it can be in small ways and methods which might initially seem insignificant to others but in the depth of matters will have an tremendous impact collectively. Is the unique path which God has destined for each and every one of us, the journey to and living experience of our true authenticity an easy one? Not always. It can be a rough and challenging road at times. But it is well worth the journey, no matter how uncertain the results may seem from the perspective we may hold at the starting point.
So this year, as my mind reflects back to the little poem that I vividly remember all the time from my childhood about the two roads and taking the one less traveled, I am filled with a sense of gratitude. I will remain forever grateful to God for guiding me in the decisions that I made at the key crossroads in my journey. I was presented with the road everyone took, the commonly walked path. I could have taken it - or, more accurately, I would have been reluctantly walking or making a futile attempt at running away down it, forever glancing back and wondering what could have been had I not, and eventually found myself mired and lost in a world of confusion, doubt, being untrue to who God Made me to be, and wishing I had taken the other one.
I could have taken that road that many had, that commonly traveled or "easy" beaten path many times-and I know now that if I had, I would have been beaten and defeated by fear (which is what I feel the real "devil" or antithesis to God is). I could have done what many other bisexuals I know have done, and elected to repress a vital part of who God Created me to be or even worse, to live a secret double life of betrayal rather than be honest and find a different type of relationship that worked for everyone involved. I could have resigned myself to the excuse that the narrow gate and lesser traveled road "was too difficult" and strolled away through the wide gate on the beaten path, not considering the pitfalls I would have been ensnared with: the closets, the excuses, the inevitable pretending to be one or the other, and the ultimate realization at journey's end all that I had been deprived of for no reason in fearfully refusing to allow myself to be true to who I was Created to be. Or, I could have elected to deny my spirituality, falsely thinking in fear that the reconciliation of my sexuality, spirituality, and maintaining dual committed and honest relationships with the woman and man I love was "too challenging" if not impossible, but the loss I would have experienced by doing so and allowing the clouds of fear to obscure the knowledge of God's Love and acceptance of me as I was would have been very tragic and a decision I would have deeply regretted.
But thankfully, none of those were the outcome. I was able to travel a new path, not the easiest but the right one in time, and I am grateful to God that I had the courage and was guided to take the road less taken, and never looked back again at the road not taken - one which would have caused me to miss out on the wholeness and fullness of the life God truly intended for me. It has made such a wonderful difference, and a journey I am glad and grateful to be on. Each year that passes, I am grateful for the one that has expired and eagerly looking forward to what the new has to offer.
While I cannot and would not ever suggest which path anyone should travel, or which road they should take, or what destiny they should envision for their life-as that is solely between them and God to know for certain, I can offer this: If you ever have moments where you feel uncertain if you are on the right path, traveling in the right direction, and going the right way on the best possible path, the following has helped me. Reflect or even pray on the following thoughts as some could offer some clues as to the appropriate direction to be heading:
- Am I being true to the authentic person I really know that God-not others ideas about God, but the God I know and feel in my heart-Created me to be? If not, what would it take for me to be true to who I am? And how do I find that?
- If I knew that God Loved me just as I am, what would I feel? What would I be doing differently? How would it affect my decisions and the path I choose in life?
- Am I being true to myself in a way which brings joy not only to me but to all those around me, and how am I sharing the gifts God gave me with others?
- Am I attuned to the ethical and spiritual teachings of Jesus, and striving to practice and apply them in all of my dealings with others to the best of my ability? Is there anything in the past that I have done to wrong another I need to atone for, or a time when someone has wronged me I need to let go of and forgive so I can move forward?
- Are my thoughts of God filled with joy and happiness, and does pursuing my greatest passion in some way bring light and hope to the lives of others? What unique perspectives can I offer to others, and how could knowledge through experience which God has blessed me with be of help to another?
These are just a few to reflect upon, and there truly are no set or solid answers to any of these questions. They are open ended and all open to interpretation on a personal level. But at least in my experience, whenever you are:
- Wholly at peace with who you are, whoever that is, and possess a sense of knowing that God Loves you as you are, even if at times it may be difficult to grasp;
- Living the truth of who you are in a way that is considerate of all and helpful to as many as possible, even if it presents challenges at times;
- Courageously and eagerly sharing whatever unique gifts God has blessed you with to enrich and bring light, joy, love, hope and inspiration into the lives of others;
- Knowing that regardless of what anyone else might attempt to influence you to believe, you have a personal sense of oneness with God and no amount of fear, prejudice, or intimidation anyone could send your way will ever be able to destroy those feelings of being loved;
- Feeling a sense of joy that comes from knowing that in your journey and in simply being who you are, and sharing the gifts God has blessed you with that you are helping others experience a greater sense of closeness to God;
Then I feel those signs are a pretty good indication that you are on the right path.
But only you alone and God can know the exact and definite path God intends for you, and you might discover it as you go. God is speaking to you, every moment of every day and can always be heard in every aspect of life, but resonates the loudest and clearest from within your heart, beyond any doubts, beyond any fears or worries. And when you do discover the path that you know in your heart is the one for you, then all you have to do is trust, and make that first step down the path - and never look back; for if and when the journey seems rough, you are being carried by a Wisdom, Light and a Love that can conquer even the most seemingly difficult of journeys. And while the journey of the less traveled road may present its challenges, it is definitely worth it.
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