Robert Frost wrote a poem entitled The Road Not Taken, which ends with the five line stanza:
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.
I sometimes think about a road I didn’t take. In June, 1984 I was living in Santa Clarita, California and driving a shuttle bus at the Burbank Airport. One afternoon, I got a call from Edmond Gruss, my history professor at Los Angeles Baptist College. He told me that each summer he taught a summer course at Christian Heritage College in El Cajon, California (near San Diego), but that this summer he was not going to be able to do that because of other commitments. He wondered if I would like to take his place teaching a five week intensive course on the History of Civilization, from its beginnings in Mesopotamia until about 1650 AD. I would teach six hours a day, five days a week for those five weeks.
I had never taught a History of Civilization course. Although I had been a history major as an undergraduate, my graduate work at UCLA was in Ancient Near Eastern Languages. Come the Fall Semester of 1984, I was scheduled to begin as a part time lecturer at L.A. Baptist College, where I would be teaching Bible, theology and Hebrew.
I had been married but a year. El Cajon was a three hour drive from Santa Clarita. I would have to stay there during the week and only come home on weekends. Christian Heritage would put me up in a dorm room and would provide my meals as part of my compensation. As newlyweds, we could certainly use the extra money. So I agreed to the position.
One other thing: it meant I’d not be home for our first anniversary. My wife was agreeable, however, since it seemed a great opportunity.
I had a little more than a week to get ready.
I managed to prepare lectures for only the first two of days of the course. The remaining lectures I created each evening the day before I gave them. I taught six hours and then spent the evening, sometimes past midnight, writing the next day’s lecture. Somehow I managed to survive.
This was my first time ever teaching in a college. To my surprise, the students loved me. Their class evaluations were glowing—so glowing, in fact, that the Academic Dean approached me at the end of the five weeks and offered me a full time position in the history department starting that Fall.
Obviously it was a great opportunity. I would not have to drive a shuttle bus at the Burbank Airport any longer—and I would be making considerably more money.
My wife still had a year to go before she’d get her teaching credential, but I knew we could spend the next year with a split household: I could commute down to El Cajon during the week, and return home on the weekends. My wife could finish up her teaching credential, and then after a year, we could move to El Cajon permanently.
But then I thought about the fact that I already had made a commitment to teach at L.A. Baptist College that autumn. And though it was only part time, it would be in the field I had done my graduate work in. The teaching position in El Cajon would be outside my field of expertise. I knew I could do it, but it wasn’t what I had planned or prepared for.
So in the end, I turned down the position at Christian Heritage College and stayed at LA Baptist College—where I would teach for the next three years: two years part time and one year full time. Then L.A. Baptist College became the Master’s College. They eliminated their Hebrew courses and all their upper division Old Testament classes. With no more classes to teach, my contract was not renewed.
Had I made the wrong decision turning down the offer at Christian Heritage College?
Well. If my wife and I had moved to El Cajon, while I probably would have had a permanent, full time teaching position, there were several other things I would have missed out on: my three daughters.
After I lost my position at Los Angeles Baptist College (by then, the Master’s College), my wife took a teaching position in the Lancaster School District and we moved to Lancaster, California. One of her parents invited us to her church. We ended up joining (and we have been there ever since, more than twenty-five years, now). While there, one of the members told us about an opportunity for becoming foster parents (my wife and I were infertile and we saw this as a chance to care for the children we couldn’t have ourselves). We ended up adopting all three of the infants that came into our lives as foster children.
Has the road we chose been an easy one? Not at all. It has probably been the more difficult road. We have experienced significant financial problems. When the younger brother of my youngest daughter died of SIDS, we were sued for 31 million dollars in a wrongful death lawsuit (dismissed two years later). One of our three adopted children suffers from severe mental illness, while one of the others struggles with less severe mental health issues. But I know my children’s lives are better than they would have been had we not been there. Additionally, there are all the people that have come into our lives in Lancaster that otherwise we would never have known. And all the books that I wrote would never have been written.
If I were to find myself back in El Cajon in 1984 and if I were offered the chance to take the road I didn’t, I wouldn’t. The road not taken was not the road that was best for me.