Journal entry 033111: This I believe: I have miles to go before I sleep

This is what I believe: Robert Frost was calling me out 90 years ago when he wrote his poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.

      The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

      But I have promises to keep,

      And miles to go before I sleep

The poem is about a man who wanted to enjoy the beauty of snow falling in the woods. (Stopping to smell the roses, so to speak, except there weren’t any roses in the winter.) But as peaceful as it made him feel, he had to move on. He couldn’t stop. No matter how nice it was, he had promises to keep, people who needed him, obligations to fulfill, and dreams yet to be dreamed.

Like the man in the poem I have a tendency to settle into life, stop dreaming, and stop pushing forward. It often takes a traumatic event to pull me out of my woods-gazing. One example was losing my job with a major oil company in 1994. I would’ve been content to sit at my desk in Midland and work out my days doing mundane engineering projects until retirement, but they fixed that for me. My employer kicked me out of the woods and on down the road.

The same was true about the end of my service as an elected official in city government. Had I been allowed, I would have stayed comfortably on the City Council for decades longer. I was effective at it, and I enjoyed it right up until the end. But looking back, it’s clear to me that I depended on it for weight and depth in my life, and I needed to move on. Left on my own I would have stayed gazing into the woods, hypnotic and pleasing and beautiful.

But again, like the man in the poem, I have promises to keep which I cannot fulfill if I stare too long into at the beautiful woods. Promises like:

      To mentor young married couples and inspire other men.

      To write my stories and insights so God can use them.

      To teach and speak from my heart.

      To be a lover and husband and supporter of Cyndi Simpson.

      To keep moving - running, backpacking, and cycling.

I don’t want to end up as one of those old silverbacks who continually lean against the past. I get tired of stories about how good things used to be. I want to lean forward into the future. I have promises to keep.

I also believe I have many more miles to go before I sleep: more to learn, more to change, more friends who’ll influence me.

Another famous writer, the Apostle Paul, wrote in Philippians 3:14, “I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” (MSG) I believe my best and most exiting miles are ahead of me, and I want to cover them before I sit down. I don’t want to leave any miles un-run.

How about you? What poem tells your story?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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