Help needed for the detours in life

“Winding roads shall be made straight.” It was shortly after I began my new job that the detour signs were posted. Previously, my drive to work had consisted of a 20-mile stretch on a four-lane highway with another 20 miles on a two-lane; but while the four-lane highway was new, straight and a relatively easy drive, the two-lane ran through farmland and forests with curves and hills that required a watchful eye and quick reflexes.

The detour signs indicated that the two-lane highway would be under construction for several months and directed traffic to a county road that wound its way through several small towns and included a number of stop signs and varying speed limits. Needless to say, I was thrilled six months later when the detour signs came down. Now, not only could I go back to my original route but the two-lane highway had been expanded to a four-lane and most of the curves and hills had been either straightened out or made more level.

Sometimes life feels like that road. Our job is going great and life is good. Then the detour signs go up. The plant shuts down; sales dry up; customers stop calling; the company is bought out and expectations change. We’re afraid that at any moment we might find ourselves out of a job, crashing into those detour signs, sliding into unemployment or worse. If we’re lucky we keep the job, or get a new one, and things seem OK for a while. But then new signs go up and we realize that we’re going to have to go through it all again!

It’s the highway department’s job to help travelers by keeping the roads in good repair and providing clear road signs, but whose job is it to help with detours in the workplace? Well, maybe it’s ours. If we’re in management we might help by clearly explaining new management practices and procedures. If we’re in human resources we might lobby for outplacement services for employees when a business prepares to close. “The winding roads shall [indeed] be made straight …” (Lk 3:1-6) but sometimes it’s up to us to help with the straightening …

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.