Why I Won’t Stay in the Woods


Idaho profile

Before long, Lord willing, Nancy and I will return to our beloved refuge in Idaho. I make no bones about the fact that living in Florida leaves me cold. Or should I say hot. I’m no flat lander; I way prefer rugged peaks. So why stay put when paradise beckons?

Easy. I know the answer. But lately I was reminded of it in a more eloquent way than usual. It came in the form of one of the poems in the last neighborhood book club.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

“But I have promises to keep.” Those words constrain me. They will not let me go.

Jesus said in Matt,. 5:37, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Psalm 15:4 warns, “A righteous man swears to his own hurt and doesn’t change.” Paul declares in 1 Cor. 6:20, “You are not your own; you are bought with a price.” A man is known by his integrity demonstrated in kept commitments.

As much as I love the Pacific Northwest, all my obligations lie on the East Coast. Aging parents, surviving son, grandchildren – including newborn twins, and a flock to shepherd. Lovely, dark, and deep though the woods may be out west, God’s call back east trumps them all.

Does the prospect of evening snowy woods tempt you to ditch your responsibilities? Don’t even think about it. Stop by the occasional forest for sure. Take in the beauty. Enjoy the respite. But keep your promises and finish the miles to go before you sleep and hear words you will never regret from Matt. 25:23: “Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

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