A couple of years ago I was on a motorcycle ride with a good friend, and as we got close to our destination, we saw a big sign that read, “Bridge Closed Ahead. Detour.” Being the non-conformists that we are, we rode around the sign, thinking the detour would be further down the road well past our destination. But it wasn’t. The road was blocked about 100 yards before we could cross the bridge and come to our journey’s end. We could see where we wanted to go, but we couldn’t get there. And so we had to take a detour that cost us about thirty minutes (which we willingly endured only because of the joy of riding motorcycles).
Detours are like that. They take us the long way around. You can be so close and yet so far away.
In his book, The Land Between, Jeff Manion tells the story of Ted and Ashley, a couple in their late twenties that dated for about a year. They agreed to spend an upcoming holiday with her family, and Ashley believed that would be the time for Ted’s proposal. Before they left on their trip, Ted asked if he could talk with her. He seemed a little nervous, as though he was about to pop the question. He awkwardly asked, “What would you think if we dated other people?” Come to find out, he already had been.
Ashley was traveling down a road, believing her engagement was about 100 yards away, and then a roadblock appeared out of nowhere: “Road Closed. Detour.” So close and yet so far away. She felt like her last two years had been wasted. “How long do I have to take this road before I come to another road called Dating, then turn down a street of a significant relationship, and finally end up back at engagement?” (181).
There are many types of detours:
- The detour of cancer.
- The detour of divorce.
- The detour of bankruptcy.
- The detour of a runaway daughter.
- The detour of job loss and extended unemployment.
Manion writes, “Some of us have been on detours for so long we wonder if we are still using the same map” (182). Detours are inconvenient, frustrating, time-consuming, and aggravating. But detours can also be opportunities for God’s blessing. Often is the case that God chooses to bless us in places we did not choose to be. He forges our character. He increases our patience. He opens our eyes to see things we may have otherwise missed.
The Apostle Paul encountered numerous detours of hardship, persecution and pain. In reflecting on some of those experiences, he wrote to the Corinthians how he was “utterly burdened” beyond his strength. He “despaired of life itself.” He felt like he had received “the sentence of death.” But in the detour, the blessing came. “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10).
Detours are not dead ends, at least they don’t have to be. They will lead us to our ultimate destination, just not in the way we hoped to get there. If you’re on a detour right now, open your heart and eyes to see what God wants you to see, which you would have otherwise missed if you hadn’t taken the detour.