I was asked about what the “detour” in last week’s traffic metaphor represented, so I thought I’d share a little more about my personal journey with you lovely readers.
When my friend and I decided to spend Ash Wednesday at a monastery a few years ago, we didn’t have smart phones yet. We didn’t have GPS or navigation systems in our cars. We were low-tech. We pulled up Google Maps or Map Quest or some such website, located the monastery, and printed out the designated route. We climbed in the car on the morning of our journey, complete with print-out directions in hand, and headed on our way…only to be stopped on our journey after the first 45 minutes by a police car blocking the route.
After about 20 minutes sitting in a line of cars waiting for the mountain passage to open, we finally got out to stretch our legs and trade pleasantries with the other drivers. That’s when we found out that the route mapped out in our printed-out directions was outdated. We were told that we couldn’t get to the monastery from the road we had chosen. The road up ahead had been destroyed in a fire and never repaired. We would have to back-track down the mountain and find a different route.
Sometimes in life, we experience road blocks. Sometimes these are obstacles in our lives that need to be overcome. For me, the road block was a kind of last-ditch effort to get me to realize I had been pursuing the wrong path. The path of doing and achievement and busy-ness that had so filled up my every waking moment (and most of my sleeping ones) was heading me toward a cliff. The road had washed out up ahead and if I didn’t stop now, I would crash over the edge.
I couldn’t get to where I wanted to go by the path I had chosen. I had to back-track down the mountain and find a different route. I had to take the detour.
My detour looks a lot like back-tracking. It looks a lot like stalling out. It looks a lot like having run out of gas, again. It looks a lot like taking the surface streets when the highway would be faster. It looks a lot like taking the scenic route. It looks a lot like taking the “long-cut” instead of the shortcut.
My detour looks a lot like the wrong way.
My detour is the path to contemplative prayer, to the compassionate way of life, to the spiritual practice of —, to the life of love. My detour is the path of counter-cultural living. It’s the path to slowing down and learning to rest. It’s the path to listening and watching before daring to speak. It’s the path to finding my voice by listening to the Voice of Love. It’s the path to being brave. It’s the path to everything my heart desires. It’s the path to God.
My detour is not the shortest distance between to points. It’s anything but. Yet my detour is not really a detour at all. It isn’t a temporary way around the dangerous construction until I can safely be on my hurried way again. It is in fact the road through a junkyard where I can leave my car and continue the way on foot, hiking a narrow, unmarked path into the wilderness with nothing but a compass and the promise of manna.
My detour is not a temporary displacement. It is a permanent re-routing. It is a change in perspective, a paradigm shift. It is the opportunity to slow down, open my eyes and ears, and become attentive to the movement and activity of the Divine Presence in my life.
Attentiveness means respecting, attending to, waiting on, looking at and listening to the other — the persons and things that we encounter — for what they are in themselves, not what we can make of them….[Attentiveness] involves a letting go of our usual need to control, an opening of ourselves to what we are being told or shown….[This attentiveness] frees and transforms. – Leighton Ford, The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things
I am becoming a listener. I am on the detour that is the only path to the rest of my life.
Come hiking with me.