Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Detour ahead, use alternate route


  "Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' He asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' The reply came, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.'"-Acts 9:3-5

By Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr.

There is only one preferred driving route for me between Oklahoma City and Tulsa: the Turner Turnpike, which is also Interstate 44.

The sun was bright and the weather was perfect as I recently set out on one such trip, bound for a meeting in Tulsa.

I settled back in the comfort of my driver's seat for the very familiar drive (I've traveled that route about 100 times). As I approached the Oklahoma City entrance to the turnpike, I spotted flashing lights ahead and a multitude of orange cones strategically placed across the road.

As I drove closer, I realized the turnpike was closed. A huge sign in the middle of the freeway declared: "Detour-Please Use Alternate Route." And to make sure you paid heed, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper was parked behind the sign.

Highway 44 closed? Did the people behind that decision know how many cars travel the turnpike? Did they realize they turned my world upside-down and stress level inside-out-in a matter of seconds?

I had to make a quick decision. I altered my course toward Route 66, the older route to Tulsa. As I approached the exit to that fabled highway, I can assure you nostalgia was not on my mind. "It'll take me two days to get to Tulsa!" I moaned inwardly.

Yet as the flashing lights and orange cones receded in my car's rearview mirror, that sign "Detour-Please Use Alternate Route" haunted me. I realized everyday interruptions don't just happen as we journey in our cars; they happen repeatedly as we journey through life.

"If you want to make God smile, make plans!" is a fitting adage. We can be so skillful at charting and mapping our futures that we fail to leave room for God's plans. Sooner or later we will discover a detour where our plans encounter God's will for us.

God is in the construction business, but instead of building with bricks and mortar, God builds with flesh and bones and in lives and relationships. Since the day you were born, God has been at work in you, and whenever God is involved there will be construction signs and detours.

However, God's detours and man-made detours differ. God's alternate routes most often lead to opportunities!

From Saul to Paul

No one knew this better than the apostle Paul, known as Saul before his dramatic conversion. No one can deny he was a learned man who made his living finding and prosecuting Christians who professed to follow Jesus. Yet on his way to Damascus, to make arrests, Saul came upon a detour.

Knocked from his horse, blinded by bright light, and instructed by a voice no one else heard, he was led to where his life, his name, and everything about him changed. His mind was set on arresting Christians, but God's will was set on sending him along another path. It was a life-altering alternate route.

We are guided and steered along routes seen only by God. At times in my life I have run into roadblocks and at first thought my path was closed. Those were not roadblocks; they were God's way of saying to me, "Detour, Bob Hayes; please use alternate route."

As I look at my life through a rearview mirror, I now see God has been gently moving me, pushing me, pulling me, and, yes, even carrying me to where God wants me to be.

John Wesley, the father of Methodism, wrote about the evening he was converted. He chronicled that on the evening of May 24, 1738, he "was extremely tired." He had been invited to a meeting at Aldersgate Street and, by his own admission, "went unwillingly."

Little did Wesley know he was about to experience one of God's detours.

Wesley wrote, "At a quarter to nine, something happened to me. I felt my heart strangely warmed. At that moment, an assurance was given to me that Christ had taken away my sins and saved me from the law of sin and death."

Our denomination was birthed when Wesley encountered God's roadblock at a meeting he didn't want to attend.

Not so bad after all

My ride along Route 66 didn't last long. A few miles down the road, all traffic was allowed to re-enter the turnpike. I learned a telephone pole had exploded, and the dangling wires posed danger to traffic along the interstate. It was a life-saving detour that I only appreciated after I discovered what had happened.

When God diverts us, it can take years for us to discover what God had in store for us by that detour. Yet I am sure God's alternate routes always lead to opportunities, and God's plans for us are always good,

Watch the signs along your way, my friends. They can tell you a lot about God's plan for your life.


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