One of the things I have learned about pastoring in a small town is sometimes things don’t move at the pace you wanted them to move. Securing and preparing your venue takes longer, your planned launch day gets moved back, the growth rate in your first year was not what you expected. And if you have ever done a building project you definitely know it will not move at the pace you want! I’ve noticed that a lot of pastors and leaders are D’s on the DISC personality test—Drivers. Drivers are the ones who, while sitting in a seminar or lecture, are thinking they could do it better than the one who is leading it! Drivers want to get there and get there fast. I know because I’m one. We’ve seen where our church should be and we want to get it there as fast as possible. But I have learned the journey is just as important as the destination. I’ve also learned that almost every planned journey will encounter some detours on the way to the desired destination.
While we don’t want the detours to become our destination,
it’s important to enjoy the journey.
At one time I was on staff at a church as the Minister of Youth, Education and Music. Impressive title isn’t it? I had the privilege of being Pastor Jack Hayford’s chauffeur for a week while he spoke at a conference in Atlanta. I remember when I introduced myself to him and he asked what I did at the church. I shared my impressive title and he asked, facetiously, “And what do you do in your spare time?” I just laughed, but at that time in my life I was also attending Mercer University as a full time student and had 3 young kids who were all involved in sports and other activities which my wife and I helped coach. It was a fast-paced season in our lives, fun, but wide open.
During that season of life, my pastor sent me to Nashville for a Christian education conference. So I packed my bag, loaded it in my car and headed out for a road trip from Atlanta to Nashville. Now, like most men I know, a road trip, especially one by myself, is a time challenge, much like the 24 hours of Lemans. How much time can I cut off from the last time? Can I beat the time my GPS says it will take? The whole goal becomes seeing how fast I can get where I am going. I had just passed through Chattanooga headed west on Interstate 24, making excellent time on my quest, when traffic came to a standstill. Both sides of the Interstate were completely shut down. This was really messing up my goal of getting there with a new land speed record. Finally, we began creeping along and I thought I would soon be back on track and would determine how to make up the time lost. But to my dismay, the officers ahead weren’t directing us forward on the Interstate but were sending us off onto a detour. A detour down back roads with minimal passing opportunities and low speed limits. My hopes of smashing any record were going out the window.
I was complaining out loud. No one in the car but me, but I was voicing my unhappiness with this detour. I was on a tight schedule and this was going to mess me up. I just didn’t have time for this detour. C’mon God, how could you let this happen to me? I was not a happy camper. But I had no choice, so I grudgingly headed off on the detour route.
The route headed north for a while—another opportunity to complain since it was taking me even further away from my goal—then turned west toward Nashville. It was your typical two-lane backcountry road; only it was full of cars diverted from the Interstate. A short while after turning west the road came alongside the Tennessee River and began following its route. Forced to drive at a slower pace, I began noticing the beauty surrounding me. It was fall so all the leaves were at the height of their wondrous display of fall colors and the terrain was gorgeous. The next hour along that detour was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken. The scenery was breathtaking and the pace I was being forced to maintain made it possible for me to take it in.
Something happened as I grudgingly accepted my fate.
As I quit complaining about the lost time this detour had cost me, I started noticing the beauty surrounding me.
I even pulled over once to get out and take a better look! I made it to Nashville and, yes, I was later than I had planned. My plan did not include the detour I was forced to take. But I had learned a lesson along the way. Had I accomplished my original goal of making good time in completing my journey, I probably wouldn’t be able to describe much of what I saw along the way. I might even struggle to remember that trip to Nashville. But a detour, an unplanned one that I was forced to take, changed everything. That trip is a good memory, not a distant or forgotten one, because of a detour. That detour taught me to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. I don’t remember anything about the conference I attended, although I’m sure it was helpful. But I remember that detour and the beauty I encountered when I slowed down and enjoyed the journey.
I don’t know what season of life you are in, maybe you are in that wide-open season where you are running from one assignment to the next, going from work to class and back to work. Or maybe you are making sure the kids are all getting everywhere they need to be while at the same time keeping a household running or working a job. No matter the season, sometimes our goal becomes ‘just getting through it’. I want to encourage you to look for the beauty in the detours you will face as you pursue your goals.
Don’t just live for the day you finish your desired goal, learn to enjoy the journey!