Is the Long Road Your Best Path to Significance?

June 22, 2023

Capitalizing On The Joy of Looking Further Out

At Scatter, we’re equipping you with the tools and resources you need to thrive in the ways God has uniquely designed you to contribute. We want to see you leverage your personality and passion, your talents and training to bring real and lasting impact to the world around you.

The American Poet Robert Frost is the only writer to have won four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. He also won the Congressional Gold Medal in 1960 and was the first poet to speak at the inauguration of a President, when he recited “The Gift Outright” in 1961 for President John F. Kennedy. He’s published a variety of masterful works, one of which is a short poem called “The Road Not Taken”. In the span of twenty lines, Frost manages to capture a relatable tension we’ve all wrestled with: when you’re faced with two opportunities, two paths, which will you choose and why?

Frost ultimately answers this question as he ends the poem with these lines:

“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.”

As we continue to engage in this conversation around ‘significance’ and ‘impact,’ it’s vital that we occasionally take a step back and ask ourselves which path we’re heading down. Are we crowding on the road of ‘immediate impact’ and ‘short-term significance’? Or, is there a path that is less traveled but that could make all the difference in how we lead, how we serve, and how we engage with those around us?

The Microwave Generation

You’ve likely heard it said before that this generation is one characterized by instantaneous gratification. That we want things to be fulfilling and fast. I’ve actually heard it put a bit more comically and bluntly: we have become people who burn their mouths on hot pockets.

We don’t want to make a meal so we microwave something that can be edible in minutes and even then, we rush too quickly and end up paying the price of a scalded tongue.

As many societies have industrialized, we’ve elevated ideas like efficiency while minimizing ideas like longevity. It’s become common to view life as a sprint rather than a marathon, as an all-out, hard push towards the goal or mission that’s always just over the next horizon.

Although the world may try to convince you that the best path toward significance is short-term sprinting, there is another path. A path less traveled.

A path where our desire to “change the world” and the concept of “immediacy” don’t always have to be synonyms.

This less-traveled path has been called by many names. But for our purposes, we’ll call it the long road. As you take the long road, you’ll start to see your metrics for success shift.

You’ll no longer weigh your impact by minutes or hours but by years and decades. You’ll begin to realize that profit might not always outweigh people. And you’ll start to understand that substance is more desirous than speed and that quality can triumph over quickness.

If you find yourself on the long road, you’ll notice that you’re often surrounded by people of character. People who are weighty. Who are in the fight not for fame or fortune, but for the long haul. And you’ll learn some valuable lessons that can only be found on this path less traveled, lessons that will ultimately help you find true significance and joy as your story continues to unfold.

What You Can Learn on The Long Road

When I was younger, I hated the phrase, “Give it some time.” There always seemed to be a situation at hand, a physical injury, some relational tension, or a potential unknown about the future, that could be “solved” with these magic words. I was more than willing to give things more effort, more heart, and even more resources. But more time? That was a challenge.

Until I started growing up and I began to realize that time wasn’t necessarily my enemy. In fact, in many situations, time could be my ally.

I remember looking at men and women I admired and respected, people whose advice I trusted and whose lives I wanted to emulate, and thinking, “how do I become like them?” The answer? I needed to take the long road.

If you want to make a lasting impact or live a life of significance, you’ll find it beneficial to walk the long-road. Because it’s only down this path that you can come to appreciate and hone the skills below that will set you apart and give you a strong framework for a legacy way of living.

1) Endurance

Endurance is the culmination of perseverance, strength, and hope. It is attributed to those who have been through the fire and who are still standing. It is what the Apostle Paul says produces character within us (Romans 5:4), and it is necessary for anyone looking to make a long-road impact.

2) Empathy

You can definitely strengthen your emotional intelligence for moment-by-moment situations, but if you want to embrace the skill of empathy, then you’ll need to follow the proverbial saying and “walk a mile in someone’s shoes.” And that takes time.

The more miles you go, the more you’ll be equipped with a spirit of understanding, a heart of compassion, and a willingness to stay close when others step away.

3) Vulnerability

There is a difference between transparency and vulnerability, and if you want a life marked by significant intimacy, then you’ll need to practice the latter rather than the former.

Vulnerability is offering someone a consistent invitation into every facet of your story. It is the repeated lowering of walls, even though it feels scary or risky. It is the wisdom to not overshare in the name of being transparent mixed with the willingness to push past social niceties in order to really get to the heart of the matter. It takes time and often deliberate practice to develop.

4) Dependability

You don’t consider a tool dependable because it works one time. Likewise, you don’t consider impact significant and dependable if it’s short-term focused. Dependable is what we call the things in our lives that last, that continue to function at a high level often far beyond expectations.

The further down the long road you get, the more you come to value dependability. It’s not the things that are flashy that really matter in the end. It’s the things that are faithful.

5) Appreciation

The further on the long road you go, the more appreciative you are of everything that’s happened to lead you to this point.

As you walk the long road, you begin to understand what true significance is and your gratitude matures. You develop the ability to be thankful for hardships and appreciative of the people who practiced the characteristics above.

You might even find that you appreciate not being on the short and fast road. Most everyone loves fireworks, but after a brilliant burst, the lights and colors fade away. If you want a life of significant impact, you want to make sure you endure far beyond a short explosion.

Be Steadfast and Build Deep Roots

I love how Paul concludes his first letter to the Corinthian Church. In chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, we read this text:

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

The goal of a life well lived isn’t to sprout up fast with immediate impact or instant gratification.

You might have the opportunity to contribute in tangible ways from an early stage, but your vision shouldn’t stop with the first-mile marker. You’re in a long race and you need to pick your head up and see that the finish line is still a far way off.

If you want to run your race well, you’ll want to prioritize steadfastness and immovability.

You’ll want to always seek to abound in good work, trusting that God sees it all and He rewards it all. You’ll want to cultivate deep roots that go far into the soil because you’re going to need something that can strengthen and nourish you as time continues to test your foundations.

The long road isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is where you’ll find those most committed to changing the world. Although the road is narrow in what it requires of people, the best news is that you’ll find the road wide enough to accommodate anyone willing to set out on a life-changing adventure.

If you commit to this ‘road less traveled,’ I’m sure you, like Robert Frost, will discover that choice will go on to make all the difference.

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Article by Jake Daghe, writer and director of discipleship at Passion City Church

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