What’s My Detour Reflex?

detour signThe orange cones and yellow detour signs still decorate our street while the workers laboriously inch their way closer to the driveway of our condo complex. Any day now I expect to see one of those No Entry signs necessitating a turnaround, delay, change of plans.

To refresh memories: DETOUR: a long or roundabout route taken to avoid something or to visit somewhere along the way, a diversion or bypass…

We wend our way through or around detours in various ways. My husband drives a slightly long alternate route, a recently re-paved street, smooth, free of orange cones and potholes. I, on the other hand, take the regular route though it’s bumpy and slow. I enjoy seeing the progress. Or lack of same in current wintry weather.

Jonah–of Whale Story fame–decided to take a detour. In his case, it was to avoid a God designed route. He not only disagreed with God’s AAA plan, but he poured out his anger. Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jonah’s outurst this way: “God! I knew it–when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That’s why I ran off to Tarshish! (A detour!) I knew you were sheer grace and mercy, not easily angered, rich in love and ready at the drop of a hat to turn your plans of punishment into a program of forgiveness!…” Hm-m-m…maybe it’s a good idea to carefully examine our detours to see if they’re part of God’s plan.

Emotions also differ when facing detours–aka anything that impinges on our detour-free  comfort. Recently I overheard a conversation in which the young woman ranted about a one-hour flight during which a child seated behind her occasionally kicked the back of her seat. (Incidentally, you haven’t lived until that’s happened on an international flight. A detour to remember!) In addition, her rotund seatmate commandeered the armrest the entire flight. The woman was irate, even considering demanding a refund on her fare, still red-faced with anger as she related the tale.

Another woman of my acquaintance, when told that because of flight delays (detours), she would miss her connections, went to the ticket counter and quietly asked for alternatives. To her delight and surprise, she was placed on another flight and upgraded to Business Class. Not all detours are so pleasantly resolved but it’s good to remember Who’s in charge.

I’m reminded of David’s words: “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child resting with his mother…composed and freed from discontent.” (Psalm 131:2 Amplified Version)  Famed preacher Charles Spurgeon commented: “David…was like one who was able to give up his natural food, which seemed to him absolutely necessary, and which he greatly enjoyed, The weaned babe has given up what it loved.” When detours prevent me from pursuing what is “absolutely necessary,” what is my natural reflex? What do my reactions reveal of my view of myself, of life, of God?

Some detours face us with jolting, heart-stopping magnitude. Two weeks ago a friend’s wife–a vibrant happy woman–died in her sleep. Facebook comments poured in from around the world to memorialize her, to comfort her husband. How will he, her children and grandchildren traverse this unexpected detour? Because I’ve “been there,” I know tears are flowing, hearts are breaking, minds are foggy, the future uncertain.

These detours–death, divorce, tragic diagnoses–are not mere obstacles on the way to a destination. They are life-changing, direction-altering mountains to scale. Other orange-cone events are the decisions made earlier in life–not essentially bad decisions, but perhaps those made without sufficient thought or counsel. Decisions that influence all further decisions. Decisions that alter the entire path ahead.

My Detour Reflex can be trained as I mature on the road, working toward the attitude of a Hebrew prophet of old: “Even though the fig trees are all destroyed, and there is neither blossom left nor fruit; though the olive crops all fail, and the fields lie barren; even if the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be happy in the God of my salvation. The Lord is my strength; he will give me the speed of a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.” (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

The orange cones and yellow signs are reminders to periodically examine my Detour Reflex.