I'm not blaming the state of Utah or the wonderful people of Utah for this challenging problem, but when I begin to see unending numbers of orange barrels and the freeway suddenly reduced to one lane I must admit I get a tad anxious, and for good reason.
With orange barrels aglow and yellow hazard lights blinking every few seconds, one night outside of St. George, Joanne ran our van into the back of a four-door sedan that was stopped dead still on the on ramp to the freeway. Two young men were confused by all the lights and simply stopped their car without entering the freeway. When I heard and felt the initial gut wrenching crunch I thought it undoubtedly was Joanne's fault, given her propensity for close calls while driving; however, before I could make any "insightful observations" regarding her driving skills, the two young men, running as fast as they could back to our van, confessed that the crash was their fault. I praised Joanne for her superior hand and eye coordination that saved us from severe harm. She seemed to appreciate the compliment and our already happy marriage was strengthened and made even happier. What good timing!
During our most recent trip, we were confronted with a plethora of detour signs, more than I can ever remember on any of our previous trips to Utah. My knee-jerk reaction to a detour sign is, "Oh no, think of the time we are going to waste!" We had to take so many detours however, that I began to change my attitude from one of frustration and aggravation to one of anticipation. It was either change my attitude or just be plain miserable.
The dictionary definition for detour is: "A roundabout way or course, especially a road used temporarily instead of a main route." or "A deviation from a direct course of action." (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)
It is in my nature, and I think many people are like me, that we don't like to take detours -- a roundabout way -- a deviation from a direct course of action. But as I learned on my last trip to Utah, as I began to anticipate the detours and the new country and things I would see and experience because of them, the trip really became a far richer experience than it would have been without the detours.
As I have pondered the principle of "detours" on freeways, highways, and in our lives, I have concluded that our lives are filled with detours -- unanticipated deviations from the I-15 freeways of life, where there is no traffic, road construction, or potholes and we arrive on time at our pre-determined and desired destination.
Life just isn't that way for most of us, is it? Many of our lives are spent on detours, which I believe are orchestrated by a loving and kind Heavenly Father. He wants us to see and experience more of life than we could possibly ever see or experience just sailing down I-15 with our air conditioning keeping us comfortable and our CDs soothing our otherwise jangled nerves.
However, we usually don't want to take most of the detours that come our way. I was motoring down the I-15 of my life doing just fine and enjoying the ride when the Lord threw a detour in my path. Initially, I found no joy in my detour and there were days I was actually looking for other highway signs that would get me off this detour and out of my misery like "End of Road" or "Dead End."
I wouldn't wish my detour on anyone else, but after more than 20 years of taking this unanticipated and roundabout road to the "Promised Land," I wouldn't now trade the experience of this "detour" for anything. Years ago I couldn't have made that statement, but I can truthfully do so now. What I have learned and experienced being paralyzed and on life support for so many years, I could have never learned or experienced on the interstate freeway of life. I am grateful for detours and the special one that has come my way.
I believe "detours" are part of the Lord's plan for all of his children. It takes faith to strike out on an unfamiliar path, but how rich are the rewards in doing so and sticking with the detour as long as is necessary.
I am sure that Abraham was not thrilled with the idea of taking Isaac on a detour to Mount Mariah. The Lord however, knew that this detour was necessary for Abraham, his spiritual development, and the subsequent great mission he was to perform. The Children of Israel had to take a forty-year detour to learn some lessons about life before they could inherit their Promised Land. Lehi and his family spent eight years in the Arabian Desert on a prolonged detour in order to learn some important things about faith, obedience, and trust in God. The Mormon pioneers had many detours and at times even faced circumstances that looked like "Dead Ends." I suppose the great challenge of life is to find "joy in the journey" regardless of the "detours" that come our way.
Many years ago I took a graduate class at USC designed to help us teach college students more effectively. Our teacher loved Robert Frost and had us read a beautiful collection of some of his poetry in a book entitled, "A Swinger of Birches." As we read the book, our gifted professor helped us apply much of what Robert Frost wrote to the teaching and learning process.
One of the poems we read then was "The Road Not Taken." I have included it below because I think it captures the essence of what I've been trying to say in this observation.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I too have been blessed to take the road less traveled by, "and that has made all the difference."