We’re told that, “When they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” (Matt. 2:12) But were they also given the new route they were to follow? (“Go three days east and then left at the rock that looks like a sheep.”) Did they stop in Jericho and ask directions? Did they keep looking back longingly at the star that had guided them to Jesus?
This is one of the Bible’s many unexpanded stories that begs for its own mini-series.
I am thinking about unplanned detours today. On my way to pick up my daughter at the same university that her three brothers attended, I come to a small town intersection I know well. I always turn left. But today, on a whim, I decide to continue on straight and see what happens.
Outside of town, farmlands open up again. I stop to enjoy a picture-perfect red barn. And then, the winding road brings me to a private, gated drive. And standing guard at the entrance is a wild, energetic sculpture. It has a slight hint of an arrow, but confused, like some knotted scarecrow after a windstorm.
A little like the map of my route today.
We want life to be an undeviating path. Like the red-barn farm’s lane. A straight shot. Point A to Point B. We set a goal, we reach the goal. We camel it to Bethlehem then follow the hoofprints back.
Why are we like this? Walt Whitman blames the road:
O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?
The fact is, we don’t like detours. But God seems to delight in giving them to us anyway. And it’s a good thing, because those seemingly pointless roads hold many delights we would otherwise have missed. When we are forced in another way, we often have to rely on the Lord more. Our faith is strengthened. Our lives enriched.
There’s always more than one way home.
Lord, guide us. And if your path veers off of the road we have mapped out, then so be it. We said we would follow you and we mean it. Detours and all.