We often envision the path of life as a highway leading us to our “destiny” to fulfill our calling. The problem comes when it looks more like a rugged forestry road through the backwoods of a mountain, rather than the smooth asphalt of the interstate. Here’s what to do when God gives you a detour.
Success, by the world’s standard, is measured by a certain list of criteria: high paying job, 2.5 kids, great house on the corner, “white picket fence,” and two of the newest cars in the driveway. God’s idea of success looks different many times than the American ideal, and to get there he will lead you on detours off the highway.
A few years ago my family and I went to Red River, New Mexico for a little vacation getaway. It is a beautiful mountain town in northern New Mexico, great for skiing, hiking, and some great rest and relaxation.
The day we were leaving a rockslide happened on the main highway out of town. After sitting in line for about twenty minutes an officer came and told us we would have to divert back and go around…a long way around. So we turned the trucks around and headed back the other way. We checked the map and followed the lines to get around.
I don’t know if we missed a turn or read the map wrong, but we ended up on a mountain forestry back road. It was full of mud and there was hardly a soul around. We drove this muddy and rugged “road” in our two-wheel drive pickups for what seemed like an eternity. We finally reached the end of the forestry road and were able to jump back on the highway.
After we left the forestry road we pulled over and were all stunned that we had even ended up on that road, but more so that we made it through unscathed, and didn’t get stuck.
I share this because it is the perfect analogy for how life often happens for many of us. We are cruising down the highway, and BAM, a rockslide happens and we get diverted to a muddy, forestry, back road coming down the mountain.
I recently shared about stepping into new seasons and how God uses them to shape us as living stones to be built into His house. Well, I’ve been in my new season for a little bit, and to be honest it’s quite odd.
My detour right now includes working in a retail hardware/home improvement store, making a quarter of what I used to make, and being at the beck and call of managers instead of working for myself.
This detour looks nothing like what I thought I would be doing at this point in my life, but you know what? I love it. In the couple months that I have been there I have already been able to minister to multiple people, provide relationship coaching, talk about the Lord, and more.
Our detours may not always be pretty, smooth, or easy, but we can’t stay on the spiritual mountaintop forever. Eventually we have to come down just as Moses, Elijah, and Jesus had to come back down. These detours are the testing ground for what we learned on the mountain top. Some detours are meant to be a chisel in our life, while others are to be a polishing stone.
You see, how we handle ourselves while we are on the detour not only brings out the true depths of our character, but I believe it also determines how long we are on the detour. The children of Israel failed at handling their “detour” through the wilderness properly and look what happened to them…forty years of wandering instead of reaching. When the Lord leads us on a detour, we have to trust Him to take us to the “promised land” on the other side, rather than complaining on the backroads that it’s not the highway.
While we drove that back road off the mountain it may have been a difficult and stressful drive, but we were able to see some beautiful scenery that many people may never see. We came to clearings overlooking the landscape, saw depths of the forest others didn’t know existed, and caught a glimpse of a different side of the wilderness. In short, there was beauty in the detour. There always will be if only you will look.
I don’t know what detour God may be taking you on right now, but hold steady. Stay the course. The highway will return eventually. There is beauty in the detours of life, and God is using them to strengthen you, mold you, and to prepare you for what lies ahead. Don’t be like the children of Israel when God gives you a detour, choose to be like Paul who endured every hardship, beating, and shipwrecked detour and kept pressing on to where the Spirit was leading him.
Have you had a major life detour? I’d love to hear your story in a comment below.