Finding Your Way Home in the Detours:

What to Do When You Can’t See Beyond Your Circumstances

by Deborah Mendoza

I miss the sea. Sometimes when I have a few free moments, I wish I could drive up to a seaside palapa or walk out onto a dock. Occasionally when I grab something to eat, I want to head to a little spot where the waves roll in, where I can savor my meal and come away refreshed. 

I once heard a visiting student say she missed the mountains of her hometown. Something in her voice reminded me of what I hear in my own head when I think longingly of turquoise-colored waters. She said the mountains tower in the background of her city, glowing brightly with caps of white snow. She had lived her entire life in the shadow of those mountains, so now her perspective on life was difficult to manage because the mountain markers, her physical boundaries, were absent.

I knew exactly what she meant. After living by the sea for years, learning its ways and its moods, we moved inland into a wide expanse of jungle. A winding river passed by our house, and the colors that surrounded us were vivid: deep greens, reds, yellows, and purples. Color was bountiful everywhere we looked. But everything stayed within their boundaries. I was used to looking out and seeing miles of ocean and a horizon that was always beyond my reach, but here everything could be reached if I tried hard enough. I felt boxed in. I was claustrophobic.

God gives each of us a love for different aspects of his creation. Some people want nothing but open farmland—others want the jungle; some need mountaintops, while others prefer the feet of them. Prairies, savannas, rolling hills, rivers, lakes, even city life—each appeals to us differently.

As I write this now from the comfort of my home in the suburbs, where convenience is the norm, I sometimes feel boxed in by the buildings that all seem to look the same. There is a longing in me, not too far beneath the surface, for a place devoid of light pollution, where at night I can see the stars and any comets or meteor showers that happen to shimmer and dart across the sky.

Claustrophobia isn’t only about our physical surroundings. We can feel trapped in a relationship, job, or season of life. Caring for aged parents or young children, working on a marriage, or craving a lifelong partner can all dim our hopes for the future, making us feel like the walls are closing in around us. In those moments, our aching for something different is acute. 

So what do we do when claustrophobia settles in on us, limiting our ability to see beyond what feels like stifling circumstances? We remember the promise of God’s never-ending presence with us, boosting our strength for today and hope for tomorrow. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7–10).

We can feel trapped in a relationship, job, or season of life.

Thankfully, when I miss the sea, my friend misses the mountains, or you miss the place your heart longs for, Jesus is there with us. If we will let him, the Father will hold our hands and walk us through these moments. Maybe you wouldn’t have chosen this path for your life, but God will never leave you to navigate it on your own.

Trust him to know what he is doing when your journey takes unexpected detours. These alternate routes are where you experience the growth you didn’t know was needed and where you learn the lessons necessary for the next leg of your pilgrimage. They will become a part of the winding road of your life and the story you will tell others about God’s faithfulness. 

Deborah Mendoza was born in Belize and is a wife, mother, grandmother, writer, and pastor. @msdahbs

Photo credit @tablerockpictures

Scripture quotation is from the New International Version of the Bible.


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