It’s been a heck of a summer around here.

First, record heatwaves in what is usually the very temperate month of June.

Next, nearby fires and the accompanying haze of smoke-filled skies.

Finally, glorious rain, but so much and so sudden that the parched and fire-burned land gave way to massive mud slides that have cut the Roaring Fork Valley off from travel in any direction this summer for days at a time. (Check out drone footage of Glenwood Canyon here.)

Travelers trying to get to Colorado’s Western Slope have had to take long detours from east of the continental divide, turning a three-hour drive into six or seven hours through mountainous two-lane roads packed with throngs of other irritated drivers.

With one eye on the traffic and the other on the skies on the lookout for monsoons, I’m reminded that God often takes us on detours in order to get us to where we are meant to be. And I don’t know about you but I’ll take a half-day’s drive through colorful Colorado over 40 years of wandering in the desert any day.

At one point early on in the Israelites’ wandering, God intentionally told Moses to turn the people around. They must have been utterly confused (and frightened, given that Pharaoh was in hot pursuit!) but God’s plan was simply to make them look like they didn’t know where they were going so Pharaoh would chase them…right into the Red Sea. And you all know what happened next (if not, read about it here in Exodus 14).

Poor Joseph went out one day just to see what his older brothers were up to in the fields. On his way, he was thrown into a pit to die, then retrieved, but then sold into slavery, managed to become a successful servant, but was then sent to prison, and finally landed himself a dream job with the king (no pun intended). Talk about a detour!

And when Jesus was born, you might remember, Joseph (different from Joseph above – popular name back then) was warned in a dream to take his new family and flee to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill his infant son. So after a ridiculously long walk to Bethlehem from their hometown of Nazareth, after riding on a donkey while nine months pregnant and being turned away from every possible soft bed in town so forced to give birth in a stable, after sleeping with the animals and making a makeshift bed for the Christ-child in a manger, Jesus’ family was forced to walk the long way home – through a whole other country! – for two years. Our little Glenwood Canyon detour looks like a vacation compared to that.

Sometimes God’s detours are the fastest route to where we need to be. Other times, they provide valuable lessons about who we are and how we show up in the world. And occasionally… they might just save our lives.

I know they are uncomfortable. I know they are usually unwanted. But detours are ironically a direct shot to spiritual wisdom. “Which way, Lord?” can be one of the best prayers we offer. That and, “Give me patience on the journey.”

If you’re making your way through the Canyon, over the Pass, or on the detour up north, Godspeed, my friends. Be safe out there.