The Value Of Detours

This is the second article that I want to talk about this concept of encountering detours in life.  And let’s face it, the question is not whether we will encounter detours, but what to do when we encounter detours.  In the last article, I mentioned that we will all have good moments, and that we must treasure those moments and count them as blessings. And now I would like to suggest that we even consider the detours of our lives to be blessings and to treasure them also.

This is exactly the kind of attitude that I sensed as I read the second half of chapter 9 of Mark Atteberry’s book entitled, “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel”.  For those who have been reading these “Hard Road Journey” articles, I would like to suggest again that this book is certainly one worth getting and reading many times.  (You can click here to find out how I can help you to get this book.)

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Let’s look then at how Atteberry considers detours in life to be helpful:

1.  Detours Can Train You

One of the first things that Atteberry does in this part of the chapter is to make a distinction between “to teach” and “to train”.  I thought that this was quite good because there is an important difference between the two concepts. You can hear about something, watch something, and even study something, and that might “teach” you something important. But until you have gone through an experience, you have not really been “trained” to be able to handle that experience.

I shared with many people of the strong interest that I had in Bible translation work since the time that I was age 16.  Then, when I tell them that I was 36 years old when our family went over to Papua New Guinea to start working in a translation project, people often ask the obvious question, “So what did you do in those 20 years?”

And I will respond, “Let’s see, I did some short-term mission work in Central and South America. I went to Bible school, then got married, then carried on and went to seminary. After that, I did about five years of pastoral ministry. Then there were some in between years where I felt a little lost and God was teaching me some lessons in humility. And also, we started a family and began raising our two boys.”

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I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to ministry work, and especially Bible translation work, I can be very passionate about it. Almost to the point that you could say I become so absorbed or obsessed with it that I can lose perspective with regards to other people or other important things in life. But I would never say that those 20 years between the time that I first thought about being a Bible translator until when I finally got onto the field were wasted years.

This came home to me in a powerful way in 2007. I was in PNG and attending a course to train translators to become Bible translation consultants. We were trained to listen well, ask good questions, be patient, be sensitive to cultural issues, know how to exegete Scriptures well, offer suggestions but not be forceful about it, and much more.

By the third week of this course we had had opportunities to sit in and watch experienced consultants work with other missionaries and the national speakers to check their translations. We were also given opportunity to lead sessions ourselves. When the teacher of this course asked me one day how it was going for me, my reply was, “Everything in my life up to this point now make sense to me.” And I still believe that is true: my theological training plus my years of pastoral ministry plus my village experience as a translator had honed me to be able to be a good translation consultant.

2.  Detours Can Test You.

But just when I thought that everything was now in place for me to be traveling the world as a Bible translation consultant and trainer, that was when my muscle disease hit me and its symptoms flared up. In February of 2008, I had just returned from PNG after doing six weeks of intense consultant sessions and some training sessions. I literally went from running through airports to barely being able to walk across my own living room floor.

As my health deteriorated that year, I slowly released one responsibility after another of the many international tasks that Pioneer Bible Translators had asked me to be involved in. By the spring of 2009, I was hardly doing anything at all, except feeling sorry for myself. And I felt like my ministry work and even my life was coming to an end.

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Praise the Lord, God showed me that there were still many things that I could do and that if I leaned on him and trusted him for my daily strength, He would empower me to continue to do this translation consultant work. What I’ve come to realize is that while there may be many things that I would like to do, I am to focus in on this one thing that I can do and which God still wants me to do.

Many people who are aware of my muscle condition have commented to me how amazing it is that I am still able to do this work. I could let this go to my head, but instead, I point to God and say it is by God’s grace and grace alone that this is possible. I will close this article was a very good quote from Atteberry on page 124:

Make up your mind that you’re willing to learn whatever the experience is ready to teach you. And remember that your character is being put to the test. People are watching and will be influenced for better or worse by what you say and do.

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