Monday, July 11, 2011

Detour Ahead

Last week I was able to enjoy a much needed vacation with my sister. We went on a quick road-trip through Wisconsin and Illinois and on the way to our destination on the first day, we found ourselves in the midst of one unexpected detour after the next. Yes, this probably could have been avoided if I had a GPS. And, I was thankful for the Illinois map that I had forgotten that I had put in my car because it helped guide us through state highways and county roads in the middle of cornfields and tiny towns back to the interstate.

It got me to thinking about detours though. Detours are never expected and often they seem like a complete inconvenience. There are several kinds of detours - some are for our good and some (much like the reason I ended up in the middle of a cornfield) are because we went the wrong way.

Sometimes I think God brings a detour into our lives to protect us. I often find myself wondering what I am being protected from when I find myself stuck in traffic or delayed on my journey. Much like thanking God for closing doors as well as opening them, I think we should be grateful for those times when He brings a detour into our lives to protect us. We see this in the Christmas story when God tells the Magi to go home a different way - to protect them (and to protect His Son). We see this in how God protected the Israelites in the book of Exodus - "See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared." (Exodus 23:20)

Sometimes the detour is part of a divine appointment - it is God's way of getting us to where He needs us to be so that He can use us for His purpose and plan. I recently heard Holly Wagner speak at a women's conference and she told the story of getting onto a plane and finding herself in a situation where she changed seats multiple times so that various people who were travelling together on the flight could sit next to each other. She finally ended up in the back of the plane sitting next to a man who asked what she did for a living. When she told him that she and her husband pastor a church, he said that he had been wanting to talk to someone and for the rest of the flight she found herself in the middle of a divine appointment. Sometimes the detour takes us to a place where God can use us. We see this in the story of Ruth - her detour ended up being a new direction which led her to the place of being in the line and lineage of the Messiah. We see this in the story of the Samaritan woman - usually Jewish people traveled around Samaria (even though that was a bit of a detour in itself) instead of going through Samaria - but, Jesus had a divine appointment waiting for him in Samaria. (You can read this story in John 4.)

But, unfortunately, sometimes the detours in our lives are because we got off the path and decided to do our own thing instead of following the path that God had prepared for us. Thankfully, even in those moments God had a plan to call us unto Himself - He loves us and pursues us and will give us the chance to make a U-turn and do what He called us to do. We see this clearly in the story of Jonah - after the big fish spits him up, he's given the chance to do what God called him to do. "Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 'Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.' Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh." (Jonah 3:1-3)

Psalm 119:101-105 says, "I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."

I love how these verses are written in The Message, "I watch my step, avoiding the ditches and ruts of evil so I can spend all my time keeping your Word. I never make detours from the route you laid out; you gave me such good directions. Your words are so choice, so tasty; I prefer them to the best home cooking. With your instruction, I understand life; that's why I hate false propaganda. By your words I can see where I'm going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. "

If you find yourself in the middle of a detour that you didn't plan today, thank God for His protection and be looking for the divine appointments that might be in your path. And, if you feel as though you are derailed and as though you took a wrong turn somewhere because of mistakes you have made, know that God has a purpose and plan for your life and He simply asks us to follow Him!

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