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Stay thankful for God’s detours in life

The subject of detours has been on my mind since this year’s fall semester of school began. A major section of a rural highway that I take during my morning drive from Columbus, Ohio, to Ohio State University’s Lima campus has been shut down since August. When I got an email at the end of summer break from our university public safety supervisor informing faculty and staff that the detour length would add just over 6 miles, I immediately thought about how a traffic delay, even a small one, could put me in a time crunch to get to work since my commute is one hour and 40 minutes. I have been locked into the route I drive for the past six years. I ended up trying two routes that added at least eight more miles before finally figuring out the directions our public safety supervisor provided.

My lengthy drive provides me with lots of time for thoughtful reflection, and as I settled into my extended journey to school, I began thinking about detours from a deeper perspective, that is, the detours we encounter in life and why God sometimes leads us down a different path than we envisioned.

As I pondered more about the atypical turns I’ve experienced, one morning I came across a short discourse from Dr. Tony Evans. Evans leads The Urban Alternative, which is a Christian Bible-teaching ministry. The title of the message I found is “Why God Changes Our Plans,” and in the beginning of this address, Evans explains that God has a plan for His children in this present time and that detours are a part of spiritual destiny in this realm.

Reaching your destiny, however, is not easygoing, and Evans pointed out that “you won’t get there in a straight line.” Not having a straightforward path is often frustrating because we don’t have patience when things are delayed. And in other situations, we try to figure out why it’s taking so long when we believe that we have willingly embraced God’s unconventional course for us.

In my case, I got into teaching after an unexpected door opened for me to obtain my doctorate back in the late ’90s at Ohio State. I came to OSU as a graduate student with plans of becoming a national sports commentator, but a research paper I wrote titled “Magic, Muhammad and Michael: Triumphs, Trials and Tribulations of the Black Athlete” moved the professor I had for that course to enroll me in his PhD program. This was my entryway into teaching.

Now, on this detour to teaching there were many disappointments along the way, as professional networking did not always go as I’d hoped and some of my research proposals were rejected. Many times, I struggled with my faith to understand where God was taking me. As I was recently discussing my musings on detours with my pastor, Overseer S.D. Carter who leads Vision of Breath with Life Ministries in Columbus, she reminded me that “sometimes the way God directs us may not make any kind of sense, but He has His reasons for doing it.”

I do not know all of God’s reasons for my teaching detour yet, but I have seen the manifestations of His blessings for me at OSU Lima, as I have been given the opportunity to develop an African American sports history class and teach English composition using my background as a journalist. I’m still engaging with my first two academic loves of sports and journalism, but just in a different venue from the one I initially pursued.

So, I am especially grateful for God’s detour that presently has me on a nearly two-hour commute. I praise Him for every setback that I have endured because I have better understanding of another spiritual truth my pastor shared: “Detours can be a blessing if you allow them to be.”

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