I intentionally arrived twenty minutes early to avoid my son going to the dorms after practice – which would only accentuate the point that his friends were staying, but he was not. When arriving at the practice field, I could see my 13-yr-old in the pack already walking off the field in the opposite direction, despite my early arrival. I realized I would need to pick him up at the University Towers, one mile off of the far end of the field (where I could not drive). I picked the 16-yr-old up from the stadium behind me, and we hurried to the parking garage to retrieve the car.
At the parking lot exit, the one-way sign pointed in a direction opposite my desire. I went a
mile clockwise to get back to about 50 yards from the entrance to the parking garage. (Maybe I should have just gone the wrong way for 50 yards!)
I tried to turn left at Cate Ave, when I saw the LED sign that said, “Cate Ave closed 5/13 – 8/13.” Obviously, this teen soccer camp was my first visit to the college since 5/13. I turned around again and headed in a three-mile circle to get to the other side of Cate – to where the University Towers were.
As I arrived at the dorm, there were teenagers everywhere. The stench of the players filled the lobby, making me wish there were another door through which I could wait. The variety of teenage maturity never ceases to amaze me. Some looked like young puppies, wet behind the ears, and holding a stature of four-foot-something; others, though separated by just a few years, exhibited bodies ready for the cover of GQ, towering over six feet. The emotional maturity of the room had equal variance.
My younger son droopily walked toward me, his sweat-covered clothing evidencing his intense workout on a hot Carolina day.
The third door of the car barely closed when he started. “I understand you don’t want me to, but can I just know the reasons you don’t want me to stay overnight?” he said, resigned as he sat in the car behind his brother.
This conversation was held over from the previous week, when he had realized his friends were staying at the all-night soccer camp, but he and his brother were not. The first day of camp departure had only reopened the wounds.
I repeated my stand: “Dad and I prayed about it and decided this was best for our family.”
“Don’t you trust me?” He asked – hurt, yet clearly ready to lock horns.
“I do trust you. You are SO trustworthy, and please do not take personal offense at our decision!”
Thoughts of explanation went through my mind: “Chris and I have been traveling; we haven’t been a family in one house in several nights. Casey just came home from church camp and doesn’t need four more nights out of his bed. Fatigue leads to injury, and you both have a big competition in Greensboro the day this camp ends. I trust you, but I can’t say the same about all of the teens – up to college-age – that are in the building. We prayed and did not have peace leaving you overnight, so we chose to bring you both home each night.”
“A thirty-minute commute to your own bed?! Who wouldn’t want that?!” I said aloud with a lightened voice, trying to change the heavy mood of the car.
I started to turn to enter highway 40, but was blocked by a sideways police car and
flashing lights. I continued straight instead, into uncharted territory, looking for another way home.
Our conversation volley continued, until I finally said with love, “Trust me, bud. The best way I can say it is that we want what’s best for YOU.”
Man! The road came to another road closure. It sent me on a detour that ended up in a loop that circled around to five miles before I would have originally entered the highway! “This is so frustrating! I just want to go home!” was in my head, when my son’s boiling became noticeable as well. I could tell he disagreed with our decision to keep him home, yet was getting control of his attitude, and I needed to do the same.
I spoke out loud to my teens, figuring I would try to teach while reigning in my irritation.
“A friend was telling me about her BSF Bible study leader’s lesson on Joseph last week. Do you remember what happened to Joseph?”
They answered about his being sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt. (Genesis 37 – 50)
“But then what happened?”
The boys shared in the story telling. Through their low Eeyore-toned voices, I wondered if their eyes were rolling and thoughts were saying, “Here Mom goes again…” but they continued telling of how Joseph worked hard and became the lead servant, so he was brought into the palace of a leader of Egypt, Potiphar, and became his right-hand man.
“And then?” I asked, impressed at their memory of details.
They continued by saying that Joseph was put into jail, because Potiphar’s wife accused him of something he didn’t do.
“Yes! And THAT is where my friend’s story started. She was saying that jail could have been a good thing at that point.”
“Good?” Nate asked, holding onto his fight-ready mood, knowing jail didn’t sound like a good thing. I pictured his one eyebrow raised while the opposite top lip crunched up leaving his mouth open – his normal questioning facial features.
“My friend said that jail may have protected Joseph. Maybe jail prevented him from giving in to temptation for Potiphar’s wife if she had persisted. The Bible actually says we will never be tempted beyond our ability to resist (1Cor 10:13), so maybe God was actually protecting Joseph by removing him from the situation. I guess I think sometimes protection may feel like jail, but please know that we love you and are only trying to do what we think is best as parents to protect you.”
Oooh. Silence in the car. “I wonder if the point made as much sense to them as it did to me,” I mused at my motherhood. Then I almost laughed out loud when I realized that maybe the detours on the road that night were a “jail” that God was using to protect me as well.
My thirty-minute trip was taking over an hour on the return home due to detours, but at this moment, I was thankful for the extra time in the car. Maybe the detours were for such a conversation? Maybe the detours were for my own protection from some reckless car on the original route? Maybe the detours were for… “Ice Cream!” I saw a favorite stop ahead, now recognizing where we were. We stopped and got something all those kids in the dorm would certainly be missing!
There are so many parallels to the closed roads in my path that night:
– Home foreclosure may just be taking my friend to the right rental neighborhood where someone needs her smile.
– A deferred college application may be leading that young lady to choose the college where her future spouse will be.
– A job loss may protect someone from an ethical temptation that otherwise would have been difficult to resist, or it may be directing him to a new job with a better opportunity for his growth.
– Jochobed may have thought it a horrible “detour” when she was forced to give up her baby due to oppressive captors, yet her God-ordained “detour” led her baby Moses to grow up to free her nation from slavery. (Exodus 2)
– Joseph’s jail time may have protected him from Potiphar’s wife’s possibly tempting situation, but it definitely put him in the right place at the right time to eventually be promoted by Pharaoh. His new position of high authority allowed him to save Egypt and even his own family in Israel during a time of famine.
God’s detours are not always denials. They are not for us to scream, “How dare God change my plans!” ha! What we see as “detours” may be His gracious protection and direction. I can’t say I am thrilled when I see the “orange sign” ahead, but I can trust the Writer of the arrow as I follow. Of course, I am grateful for the ice cream stops along the way! 🙂
“IF” (If My Daddy Had Not Been Struck By Lightning)– by my friend, Sarah Ascol