It’s a pity we sense the benefits of the detour after we reach the other side, not when our brakes screech to a snail’s pace.
A thunderstorm rolled through our town in the early morning hours, fading available light in the breezeway spanning our house and the garage. The room looked as gloomy and dreary as I felt. Blurry from a bad night’s sleep and grouchy from a spat over insignificant nothingness with my husband, I opened the door to let my rambunctious Pembroke out for his morning race with nature.
I blamed the dog and the dim light for my misstep. The truth is, I wasn’t paying attention. The grumpies have a way of smearing my sense of discretion. Regardless of why, my foot missed the last of three steps and I fell to the floor in agonizing pain.
I’d been through that pain before. I knew what happened before any x-ray could snitch. I had sprained my ankle and chipped a bone. Again.
Bad, bad, bad. In six hours, the granddaughter of a dear friend was walking down the aisle. Monday started the first day of our church’s Vacation Bible School program. And then there was the usual pastor’s wife responsibilities of a Sunday morning.
I also had the map of the road to recovery memorized. Elevated foot. Ice. No weight bearing activity for at least one week. No wedding. Major activity shift regarding Sunday and VBS.
Why, oh why did I have to be so stupid and mess up my ankle? I’m supposed to be there for everyone else. What possible good could come from my enforced immobility?
I’m learning to pray this prayer:
“God, I’m in a mess and it’s partly my fault. Would you make redemptive use of this crisis and bring good out of it? Shine through my weakness so others can see Your power and glory.”
I went a step further. Taking up my spiritual crutches, I decided to go on a God hunt so I could discover how God chose to answer my prayer. Here’s the four ways I saw God work through my injury.
It gave others a chance to serve me.
Over the next two Sundays:
- Loretta got me a cup of coffee
- Bill set up my microphones and a chair for me to sit in so I could still lead worship music.
- Jodi loaned me a cane
- Christian, a mentally challenged young man, prayed for me
Three weeks, later, an ace bandage replaced the boot, but I still dealt with pain and weakness in the ankle. As I limped through preparations for a Women’s Fellowship meeting:
- Cyndy wrapped my ankle for me
- Karen devised a plan to run interference for me with a time demanding person who seemed clueless that I couldn’t stand for long periods while she talked to me.
My injury brought people to me
When I’m ambulatory, Sunday mornings find me a moving target as I flit as fast as a butterfly trying to track people down to work on various program details and catch visitors. That first Sunday in church, I fretted over my entrapment in a wheelchair. How could I connect with people if I couldn’t move? I was amazed. At one point, I had a queue of five people talking to me. And we didn’t talk about church programs.
- Conversations went deeper.
- People I don’t usually connect with came to me.
- Others who are normally introverted shared their tough time moments and how they got through frustrating injuries.
- People shared more personal prayer needs
At one point, I had so many people surrounding me, I felt like I was holding court! And the connections with people spilled over past Sunday morning. Sister-friends stopped by the house and we lingered over conversations. They stopped, stayed, and shared from their hearts.
My injury smoothed some rough edges in my marriage
It made us pull together at a time when we were pulling apart. We had to coordinate to get through that first rough week. My husband pushed me in a wheelchair to VBS and stayed with me as I taught the Bible story. We relied on God together to provide my medical needs and rejoiced together when the Lord provided the boot and gifts of food. We worked as a team to get through my convalescence, an experience that prepared us for my husband’s season of recuperation after surgery.
The sit down time meant lots of writing time.
I’d been bemoaning that I wasn’t getting enough desk time. Now that I was no longer on my feet, my focus shifted and I had plenty of sit down time. You wanted time to write? the Lord seemed to say with a divine twinkle.
What benefits can you get from a life detour?
A mandatory detour a a good time to
- Reflect & ruminate
- Relate with others
- Receive the generosity of others
Detours force us to slow down. At the slower pace, we get the chance to observe, to sit and chat with friends and family, and to remember what we value in life.
The best benefit of a tough time is that it gives us experience.
A life detour gives us experience so we’re better equipped to handle the next tough time. It provides coping mechanisms, resources, friends, and stamina. The biblical letter of James is right. The testing of our faith during those tough life moments gives the same benefit as an aerobics workout. It’s called endurance, or for a more “biblical” word, perseverance. We’re stronger for the struggle.
The next time a life trip slows your pace, swallow the urge to be frustrated over the interruption. Instead, ask God these questions:
- What do You have for me to do?
- Which people do you want me to influence along this alternate path?
- What do You want me to see at this slower pace?
- Which group of spiritual muscles do You want me to work on this time?
How have you benefited from a life detour?