DETOUR: “a long or roundabout route that is taken to avoid something or to visit somewhere along the way”
What is the first thing you think of when you read the words “Detour Ahead” on a road sign? Are you excited or do you inwardly groan and start to worry that you will be late for an appointment or an important meeting?
My first thoughts are usually “How far out of my way is this going to take me?” As inconvenient as they may be, those unplanned detours are usually meant to protect us from potential hazards in the road ahead of us.
I am the queen of planning ahead. I write lists and sometimes it feels as though I need a list to keep track of my lists! Being prepared gives me a sense of control. Those lists are a road map for the day ahead of me.
As a child, I remember the glove box of our car being filled with folded paper maps and then in later years, a Thomas Brothers Guide took their place. Like my lists, they were guides that showed us how to reach our destination. Now, as drivers, we rely on GPS or Google maps to point us in the right direction.
Detours tend to throw that “planning ahead” mentality right out the window, don’t they? I am reminded of the saying “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” Proverbs 16:9 (New International Version) says: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” God has a plan for our lives and sometimes He needs to send us on what may appear to be a detour to accomplish those plans.
During the past two years I have traveled on an unplanned journey—detours into widowhood and unemployment came at me with no road signs to warn me of their arrival. I was thrust onto messy and uneven roads without Google Maps to help me find my way.
Through tears and prayers, I have learned to rely on what I call my GPS (God’s Piloting System) to travel those roads. I do not know why God chose these paths for me but I am trying to trust in His infinite wisdom and His knowledge as to where these paths will lead.
Heading the wrong direction…
Not all detours, though, are ones that God has set before us. When we take matters into our own hands, we may take detours that lead us into that “valley of the shadow of death.” How many times has the voice of your car’s GPS system said “recalculating” when you take a wrong turn? I wonder if God doesn’t shake His head and mutter the same word when we stray off the way He has set for us.
The poet Robert Frost shared his thoughts on choosing the right path in life. Pause for a moment to listen to those words here: “The Road Not Taken.”
We usually expect detours to take us onto a new path from the road we are traveling and then circle back to the original route so we can continue our journey. But, occasionally, those detours take us in a whole different direction and lead us to places we did not expect to go but end up as exciting serendipitous adventures.
My sisters and I took a road trip in 2008 on the old Route 66, and a few times we ended up detouring through rural parts of the country on old bumpy roads. Those were some of the most fun parts of the trip that were not included in our guidebook and in looking back, though not planned, added such memorable elements to the journey.
What are the detours in my life teaching me? I am learning that no matter how inconvenient a detour may be, I will end up where God wants me to be—even if I do not think I want to be there. It is comforting to realize that God has a purpose for everything in my life and those detours are part of the plan for me to achieve that purpose.
Instead of grumbling and griping about those detours as they come along, what if we choose to face those long ways around with an attitude of learning and with re-adjusting our GPS? Think of what we might discover!