I thank God for detours, because after all, God directs our lives. I’d rather have Him at the helm than me. In reality, life’s detours exist only in our minds. We make our plans, but God often directs us to places we could never imagine. I agree that, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NIV).
Jim and I planned to put each other through college and then find a way to take God’s Word to places that had not yet heard. With all the vigor of indestructible 18-year-olds, we married and began down that path. Early into college, Uncle Sam came knocking. Though the Vietnam conflict appeared nearly at its conclusion, college deferrments no longer existed and they drew Jim’s draft number very early–day six, actually. He joined the 101st Airborne.
His first overseas assignment? Athens, Greece, vacation spot of the U.S. Army! Early in our three-year stay, a friend, Wes Johnson, snapped this photo of us at Sounion, site of the temple ruins of Poseidon, after a day trip to this southernmost tip of the Attica Peninsula. We were both 21 and blessed by God’s detour.
For three years we explored the plethora of Greek islands. I often met Jim at the docks after his 12-hour shift, having filled both our backpacks. For the next (nearly) 24 hours we would ride ferries, snorkel, sleep on island beaches, trek over terrain that allowed no motorized vehicles, and eat to our hearts’ content any and all Greek delicacies: tomato/cucumber/olive/feta/olive oil salad, fresh calamari, dolmadakias, steamed prawns, fresh bread and cheese, currant muffins, fresh fish from the sea, fruits and coffees! We never would have experienced this had God not taken us on His detour.
Jim studied modern Greek at the universities that follow the military and worked with Greek soldiers every day. He became so proficient that locals almost always asked, “Is your mother Greek?” or “Is your father Greek?” They simply did not believe he had no Greek relatives. Though most Greek citizens did not harbor much respect for America at the time, Jim’s language skills took us into many cozy homes, shops, harbors and conversations. If you take the time to learn someone’s language, they assume you love them. And you do, inevitably!
Detours have their beautiful moments like a sunset at Sounion, but they just as often bump us around, jostle us, sometimes break our rough edges off in painful ways. Regardless, God’s detours always offer opportunities for us to be conformed to the image of His Son. For that, I thank God today.