Taking a Detour

I always love a road journey and a road journey metaphor is even better.  This weekend Andrew and I and our 16 year old son, headed to Northland. Andrew was preaching at the Bay of Islands Co-operating Parish on Sunday and being the last weekend of the school holidays we thought we’d make it a weekend adventure.  We had planned on leaving after I finished work on Friday, but with the recent flooding up north, State Highway 1 was closed just south of Kawakawa due to part of the main highway being washed away in the floods.

The radio was recommending taking extra time and using detour roads.  There were several options we could choose.  We could go the really long way through Dargaville and add an extra couple of hours to the usual trip length, try our luck with State Highway 1 and hope we might get through or find our own way through the myriad of back roads going North.   The long way didn’t appeal, so we thought we’d try State Highway 1, and trust the road ..  which was fine all the way until we were on the outskirts of Whangarei and reached a sign that told us to turn around and go back to SH14.

The suggestion did not appeal… because we didn’t want to backtrack so far…  so we stopped and bought some Kumara from a roadside stall and asked for the local knowledge.  The vegetable seller was helpful and recommended that we go back to the first set of lights and make a right turn there and follow the detour signs.


We must have missed something in the translation, because we got back to the traffic lights and made a right turn, but we couldn’t see any detour signs.  Nothing daunted we stopped, rearranged and Mr 16 went in the front seat with his smartphone, we looked at the map, turned on the GPS navigation and set off on our own.

All went well initially, and we progressed for close to an hour without incident.  And then…  then we lost the navigation signal.  However, we could still see the map, so with Mr 16 directing we picked our route and happily drove on.   The tarseal roads changed to dirt roads, and they started to get rather windy, but with our navigator on the job, it looked like we were only about 10 mins from Kaikohe, the town where we were navigating to… when we passed a car that looked as if it had been washed down the road… and then… a road sign and barricade stopped us…  because the road.. was WASHED away!

Okay… perhaps the long way was looking like it might have been a better choice – or certainly a faster choice!  But like intrepid explorers we picked up our smiles, turned the car around, went back about three quarters of an hour to where the road last forked and changed direction.  Dirt road changed to tarseal and wonder upon wonders, we saw traffic!  Could it be possible that we were on the right detour road at last?

With growing confidence we felt that this new road was taking us to the place we wanted to go…  we were heading north, which was a great sign, and every so often coming towards us were a few cars and trucks, giving us comfort that this road was not going to end up washed away. However, after a while we noticed that there was a pattern to the cars coming towards us.  There’d be a dozen cars or trucks in a row, and then nothing for a while, and then another row of a dozen cars and trucks.   Pretty sure now that we would be stopped somewhere ahead and be reduced to one lane.

Sure enough we came upon a queue of cars that were not moving.  We stopped.  We turned off the engine.  We waited.  We waited. We waited. A truck full of yellow clay drove past us.  Another truck of yellow clay drove past.  Hmmm…  were they transporting clay, shifting the slips from the road?

Finally it was our turn to move and single file our queue of cars moved slowly around the bend.  We saw the devastation, the road that had slipped away on the right hand side and on the left the yellow clay dirt that had fallen down from the hillside and was blocking the road.  We saw the machinery, the men, the signs, the activity and action to get this back road detour route operating and allowing people to move north.

After that it was fairly straight forward.  We reached the town of Kaikohe and drove without any further  trouble to Paihia… our journey had taken twice as long as usual but we were there.

We talked as we drove, laughing at our adventure, but also wondering what would have happened if we’d made a different choice about the route of our journey. If we’d taken the long route – would we in fact have got there faster?  If we’d stopped to find the real detour, rather than allowing ourselves to take what we viewed as an easy choice and follow our own path would we have found the right way faster?  Or what if, when we saw the sign telling us to turn around, what if we’d ignored it and carried on down SH1?  What would have happened?

That’s the thing about choices, once they’re made you can’t undo them, you can only try to make the best of them and try to stay on the right path.  And is there only one right way? Is there only one route for each of us to follow, do we have to find the right path that God intends us to take and only follow that path, or is keeping our eye on the destination the more important goal?

Over the weekend we met several people who all had stories of their journey north or the journey of someone they knew, different routes were described and discussed, and it was clear that there were many ways to reach the north.  And it was also clear that time delay was standard no matter what route taken.

But we still didn’t know whether we’d made the right or wrong decisions in regards to our journey.  All we know is that we made our best choices based on the information we had, we made the most of our journey… and we got to our destination.

And life and faith is a bit like that.  We make some right calls and some wrong calls, but we’re never off God’s map.  And sometimes when we least expect it, a detour occurs, but even then, we press on to our destination and we find fulfillment in both the journey and the destination.

(An interesting postscript to this story is that Mr 16 had taken homework with him for his English research assignment.  He’s chosen the topic of Free Will vs Determinism and is using mainly movies as his sources.  So that night we watched ‘The Adjustment Bureau’.  The movie introduces the idea of theological determinism, and seemed an apt end to our day of trying to find our own path. Well worth watching and discussing)   

(Photo credit: Google maps & NZ Herald)

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