Guided Detours

Photo by  Jeremy Bishop  on  Unsplash

Nearly ten years after being dismissed from a 30-year endeavor that, at the time, defined my entire career and much of my calling, my new normal continues to evolve. Somewhat comforting is that setbacks and detours and the sense of having lost my way is a widely shared experience with those I most admire.

In his book, “Detours, the unpredictable path to your destiny,” Tony Evans insists that “Everyone has a destiny and a purpose to fulfill.  Each member of the body of Christ has a unique role to play.”

He cited several of my favorite Bible heroes whose life purposes are virtually indisputable…

  • Abraham, patriarch of Israeli people
  • Joseph, saved Israel from famine
  • Moses, rescued Israel from enslavement
  • and Paul, evangelist to the Gentiles

In none of their stories was the line between purpose and fruition straight or short.  Each endured a series of detours that prepared them for their purpose. Drawing from Joseph’s story and many of his own experiences, Evans offers insight about how the path to purpose may unfold and  factors that may influence the duration and difficulty encountered along the way.

Purpose realization is often influenced by the degree that we trust and obey God and accept and submit to the challenges he allows or leads us to face.  

While no one who knows me well would hesitate to label me stubborn, I find my own stubbornness more than a little frustrating because God has always provided and proven his goodness to me over and over.  What’s with my resistance to “let go and let God?”

I recently prayed about the vagueness I feel about my life purpose.  Several years ago, I developed a personal mission statement to guide my search for a new career.  A Lent project in 2011, version one emerged in April of that year. Since then, I’ve revisited and tweaked it often.  Here is its present form (with footnotes in [brackets]):

“We matter to God”

How God regards human beings[2] informs my calling[3] to engage and exhort people to “know[4]” Him and to convey how much we matter to Him. I acknowledge certain gifts such as creative expression, encouragement, administration, leadership and humor to engage people I encounter along life’s roads.[5]

I labor[6] to responsively encourage people to recognize our world as “God-bathed and God-permeated”[7] while, with fellow believers, I “work out my salvation with fear and trembling.”[8]
— revised 4/21/2018

For all the effort devoted to developing this mission, my search suffered a series of setbacks before I retreated from mission guidance to simply securing a job to help pay the bills.  Having tweaked our lifestyle to balance our means with our needs, we are doing OK now. Meanwhile, I emotionally vacillate between simply being content and wondering whether God has something more in mind for me.

This “Detours” book was recommended by a friend, prompting me to consider that my personal mission statement may speak more toward my life in general than my career in particular.  Indeed, experiences and detours have altered my perspective.

Noted Evans, “it took forty years in the wilderness to develop Moses” and “Abraham was on a twenty-five year detour...The greatest apostle in the New Testament, Paul, went on a three-year detour to the desert” before launching fully into ministry. Then we have the convoluted story between Joseph’s dream at age 17 and being elevated by Pharaoh to  prepare Egypt for famine…

My latest thought is that all my setbacks including my present “just pay the bills” job is all part of how God is guiding my life.  

I suspect my story is similar to yours, that purpose is more often vague than clear, more meandering through agonizing detours than zooming fast and straight to a stunning destiny..  

Only when I pause, take a slow, deep breath and tend to God’s still, small voice do I recognize and appreciate how his hand is guiding me..

Mission footnotes

[1] This Mission Statement was inspired  by Dan Walker who spoke at a Career Ministry workshop on 2/24/2011 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church.  I began the project on 3/9/11 (during Lent). The first version emerged 4/20/11.

[2]  People engagement is a prominent theme in my life. It is reflected in an idea I’ve titled One Cor36 based on 1 Cor 3:6 “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God makes it grow.” (NIV).  Also, “ the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a human being. (Genesis 2:7).

"It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare…There are no ordinary people.  You have never met a mere mortal.” (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, pg 15.)

[3]   I am guided by a conviction that processes and people are the “soul and heart” of all worthy enterprises (organizations, companies).   Jim Collin’s books, “Good to Great” and his companion monograph “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” (read in 2006) articulates ideas that resonated with me along this line.

[4]  To “know” in the “biblical” sense.  My 2006 ornament, “Bride of Christ” expounded on this inspiring principle.

[5] “roads,”  specifically curvy, black-topped “back roads” with a freshly painted yellow centerline. I so enjoy driving roads like these with my wife that I have many road photos taken during these drives. Black-topped road driving inspired the name and banner of this "Road Report" blog, launched in 2012.

[6]  “labor “ as in “my effort in concert with God’s will and empowerment” Vs default to “forget” to engage God as I push into life thus rendering me more critical  than joyful and more guarded than engaging.

[7]   “Jesus’ good news about the kingdom can be an effective guide for our lives only if we share his view of the world in which we live.  To his eyes this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world. It is a world filled with a glorious reality, where every component is within the range of God’s direct knowledge and control—though he obviously permits some of it, for good reasons, to be for a while otherwise than as he wishes.  It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because it is of God and because God is always in it. It is a world in which God is continually at play and over which he constantly rejoices. Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not yet fully seized us.” (by Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy, page 61)

[8] Philippians 2:12, ESV