|This picture was recently circulating Facebook. I really liked it. :)|
One of my most memorable "detours" occurred last February. I had attended a wonderful graduation ceremony for my brother in ministry, Robert Wafula, as he received his master's degree in leadership.
The graduation was on time and finished early. Since the university is within about 40 minutes of Kampala, I figured I could "dash" to the capital city, check on my pending work permit, and be back on the road, headed toward Jinja, to arrive in time for the 5 p.m. graduation dinner. After all, it was only mid-day - plenty of time...right?
If I have learned anything while in Uganda, it is never, ever assume - anything.
My trip to the immigration office went very smoothly and so did the start of my return trip. But shortly an auto accident, complete with fire and smoke, sent us off the two-lane main road - on a detour on one-lane mud roads - for nearly 2 hours.
Our packed taxi (which resembled a VW bus) became just one of many vehicles of all shapes and sizes (including large fuel tanks) that attempted to navigate these too narrow, very muddy, very windy back roads. As we re-entered the paved main road, I discovered we were only a short distance ahead of where we had been two hours before, and not much closer to our destination.
I arrived in Jinja that evening sometime after 7 p.m., having missed the best of the party, and able to enjoy what remained of the nice meal.
My reaction? To cry tired tears of frustration. I kept asking myself, "Why? How? How did such a great day turn out so wrong?"
There have been other times in my life in which I didn't understand the "detours."
"God, why I am here? How long do you want me here? When will I get back to the 'real' plan you have for my life?"
The last time I visited my sister (in Nov. 2012), I heard a pastor share in a chapel service about "detours." He spoke of how we often think God can't use them or that they are "interruptions," pulling us off the main road He has for us. But, the pastor asked, what if the detour is the real path? Rather than trying to escape it, why not embrace it and realize it too is part of God's overall sovereign work in our lives?
Those words have come back to me this week. For years in my mind I had an idea of what God might have in store for me, and honestly it didn't include Uganda. I have been guilty of thinking my time here is a "detour" and that one day I will resume the original plan God has for me. Usually, that plan includes marriage, living back in the U.S. somewhere near family, and working in a support position for a ministry or mission organization.
Consequently, I have not allowed myself to fully settle here - physically, spiritually, emotionally - to relax and invest wholeheartedly in the path I am on now. I am being honest here, and it is not easy.
After four years here, I just recently bought a couple pieces of furniture, after living for too long out of plastic totes. I haven't seriously devoted myself to language studies - after all, I don't know how long I will still be here.
Unlike others who believe God is calling them to a lifetime in Uganda or other parts of Africa, I don't have that sense. Or maybe I am avoiding it.
Please don't misunderstand me. I do love my life here, where I live, who I work with, what I am doing, but yes, there are days when I seriously struggle with loneliness, discontentment, ingratitude, and the "grass is greener elsewhere" syndrome. Unfortunately, in my fallen nature I fall into the trap of thinking I am missing out on something, somewhere, rather than trusting that this is God's best for me right now, right here.
I had the blessing of being prayed over this past weekend. One thing spoken over me was I had lately become frustrated as I sought for a clear path and a clear vision. "God will give you one," I was told. Immediately, I thought, "What if that vision includes long-term work in Uganda? Am I ready for that?"
I don't know if I am ready. Honestly, I don't know what is ahead, how long I will be here, or what the "big picture" is. But I am slowly and stubbornly learning to trust Jesus for the next step of this journey, this adventure.
When we join Jesus on the path He has for us - winding as it may be - there are no such things as detours. He uses it all - every season, every circumstance, every encounter - to accomplish His purposes in and through us. It's pointless to worry about whether or not you are being "detoured" or on the "main road."
If Jesus is driving, you know all is under control - His control. So settle in and enjoy the ride. :)