Robert Frost Teaches Me About Missional Living

Today, my son and I read a Robert Frost poem, one I had never before encountered. It’s short, but its message reflected a missional perspective. See if you agree:







A Time to Talk

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, What is it?
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.


What I find most fascinating about this poem is the word “plod” in the next to last line. It changes the tenor of the entire poem, implying that the narrator may not be feeling enthusiastic about this particular interruption in his day. But at the same time, he goes to meet his friend, and I am guessing that after he takes this time out for the visit, he will be glad he did so.

The poem hits home for me, because I am a tried-and-true introvert, and I am also not someone who does well with interruptions, especially when I am in the midst of a task or a to-do list, with all my desired goals rising like Frost’s unhoed hills around me. But “A Time to Talk” gently reminds me that ultimately, the most important work that we are to be about in this world is relational.

I think of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, soaking in the time with him while her sister putters around in her busyness. I remember how Jesus’ strategy to revolutionize the world centered on his connections with a small group of people, 3 and 12 in particular. I ponder the reality that we live in an overly busy and frenetic culture in which “just stopping by to talk” rarely seems to happen anymore.

Perhaps it would do us all some good to make more intentional space in our lives to spend time visiting others and inviting friends, neighbors, and acquaintances into our lives with more frequency. An idea we have talked about doing in our family but have yet to implement is to start a regular “open house” evening and let our friends and neighbors know they are welcome to stop by for a visit, then encourage others to do the same. I’m now motivated to try this out this summer!

Your hills may remain untilled and your to-do list ever-daunting, but as we do the mission-critical work of building deeper and more meaningful relationships with those around us, I have a feeling we will be closer to choosing what Jesus is hoping for from his people. Even if it takes us a little plodding to get there, I think we will ultimately be glad we did so.

Are there ways your family intentionally strives to create “time to talk” space in your life? How do you do so? Would love to see your ideas!

8 Comments on “Robert Frost Teaches Me About Missional Living

  1. I read that poem with one of my kids last year…I loved it. The idea of stopping to visit, whether you feel like it or not. Much of what you wrote is true for me, as well. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  2. What a great reminder…and something I constantly struggle with. Like you, I am an introvert with a long to-do list. I want to think that friends can interrupt my life, but grumbling under my breath every time the phone rings proves I have a long ways to go. I’ve actually been considering the “open house” idea…perhaps a weekly Sunday cookout throughout the summer. Thanks for sharing the poem and reminding me to work on this area of my life.”

  3. That sounds great. Some accountability would definitely be a good thing. And thanks for mentioning that book. I added it to my Good Reads list.

  4. This discussion made me laugh because this is our reality living on a University campus in Uganda. It was a struggle for us to learn to live in Community 7 years ago and I still struggle with joyfully answering my door when people come up at all hours and all days. What is even funnier, is that I have been unable to shake my American culture and just go to someone’s house and greet them when that is what is expected here. At least my neighbors have accepted that they are welcome at my house even if I haven’t come to theirs! I, too, am an introvert but God has to keep working with me on this. It’s harder when I am tired.

  5. What a wonderful poem. Thanks for sharing it. We’re gearing up for regular open houses during the summer, too. I’d love to hear how that goes for you ladies. Our kids are 1 1/2 and 4 1/2, so we’re going to invite neighbors and friends over on Sunday afternoons for dessert before the dinnertime and bedtime routines begin. We’re hoping for a cross-generational time of visiting and fellowship. If you’re in Delaware this summer, feel free to stop by!

  6. We live in town and have space for animals. Right now we have a tiny goat that was born full term just really really small and needs to be hand fed. Precious is only 2 weeks old and already has had at least 45 visitors. I tell people “you can come by at any time during the day to hold her and if it is feeding time, you can feed her.” This morning one of the two young ladies that stopped by asked if she could stay and live with us. I wanted to scoop her into my arms and hold her as that is what it looked like she needed……served our country proudly and to young to have seen/experienced life so hard….my children (all 5 of them) seemed to know with out being told, she needed love and compassion..and one of God’s littlest critters ministered to her heart……my prayer is happening…that in this community, people will see our home as a safe place to stop when ever they need a glass of lemonade, a hug, or a listening ear. No condemnation, or preaching, only a “loving them to the Kingdom” idea is what we long to teach our children. Jesus met people where they were, showed them himself, and His kingdom was advanced. thanks for all the great articles..”

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