Embracing the Unexpected Detours

It was one of the most difficult decisions I had to ever make. After spending a year struggling in the ordination process to become a minister, I came to the conclusion that while I still felt called to be a minister, it wasn’t going to be in the denomination where I had been raised and not in the church where I thought God was calling me to serve.

From difficulties passing the ordination exams in this particular denomination because of a learning disability to a long process of wrestling with theological doctrines that define it, I struggled with my sense of identity in this particular denomination where I was seeking to become an ordained minister. Yet, making the decision to leave the ordination process, one that I had spent three years navigating, was not easy. For me, it made me feel like I was not only giving up on my hopes of becoming a minister. But it also made me feel I was giving up on what I felt called by God to do.

All of us know the feeling of what it’s like to be working to achieve something we feel called to do only to be let down by others or ourselves. Maybe for us, it’s seeing the hopes we had for a relationship that came to an unexpected end. Perhaps it’s a job which brought us joy and purpose that ended unexpectedly due to a layoff. Or maybe it’s being forced to leave a familiar place and moving to somewhere unfamiliar.

While sometimes the road we were on may not get us to the main destination we intended, it’s often the detours in life which get us to where we are ultimately called to go.
For the Israelites, while there were shorter and clearer routes to the Promised Land, it was the unexpected detours that ultimately led them to where God was calling them to be. And while the path wasn’t easy for them, their detour was part of God’s call.

“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” – Exodus 13:17-18

Just because we find ourselves facing roadblocks or unexpected detours during our callings in life, I believe it’s often in the unexpected detours that we often find to be our true destinations. And while these detours may take us through a wilderness of uncertainty as we ask ourselves what’s next for us, God is still speaking to us as we are shaped for our ultimate purpose.

For me, it was discovering my sense of belonging in a new home, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where I felt not only a sense of belonging but where I felt called to do my ministry. Perhaps for you, it’s the end of what was thought to be a lifelong career only to discover your new talents and passions. Or perhaps it’s was the time in unexpected singleness where you met someone who became “the one.” And maybe it’s the realization that while your dreams of settling down in the place you always have been, perhaps you’re destined to discover purpose and meaning in a new place filled with adventure and opportunity.

“Most of all, do not be too quick to denounce your sufferings,” writes author Richard Paul Evans in the novel, A Winter’s Dream. “The difficult road you are called to walk may, in fact, be your only path to success.

Christopher L. Schilling is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), hospital and Air Force chaplain, and a freelance writer.