Part of a Bigger Picture (Day #66)

Husband and I make a point of driving to Detroit every time we visit Husband’s family in Ohio.   And every time we do, we come back changed.  We can’t not.

We drive the 160 miles to Detroit because we have friends there.  It used to be two, then two became four, then four became five, and 17 day before Lil Mil was born, five became six.  Six friends that feel like family.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Husband’s friend Eric and his wife and their twin baby boys left an affluent suburb in Cincinnati to move to inner city Detroit to plant a church.  On Sunday, Husband, Lil Mil and I attended their Easter service.  What was once just an idea in Eric’s head is now a thriving church community with more than seventy members.

Most of us do what we can to stay out of the storm.  Eric and his family stepped right into the center of it.

I don’t know what it’s like to live in inner city Detroit.  I don’t know what it’s like to live in the inner city of anywhere.  But sitting in that congregation yesterday, I saw lives that were very different from mine.  Lives riddled with pain and addiction and violence.

Lives that are being transformed.

As I sat there, I realized something.  When we’re on a path we like, headed to place we want to go, detours mess things up.  Even the detours that turn into the greatest journey of our lives first feel like a step back, a step away from the road we want.

But when your life’s path is a dark and rocky road, detours are things you hope for.  Pray for.  Want but never expect.

Eric and his family, they are a detour sign.

No matter what the detour, there’s always a detour sign.  Sometimes you see it nine months before your detour starts.  Sometimes it’s more like nine seconds.  But it’s there.  The signal that life is about to change.  Your persistent headache.  The look on the doctor’s face.  The sound of the phone ringing in the middle of the night.  You might not have recognized it at the time, but looking back, you see it.

Sometimes, the sign is a person.  Someone steps into your life and then:  life changes.

For the people in his neighborhood, Eric is that someone.  He is the signal that life is about to change.  They meet Eric, they meet his beautiful wife and his four precious children, they hear his take on the Gospel and his vision for Detroit, and slowly, their outlook begins to change.  They begin to change.  They can’t not.

Without meaning to, they leave their old path for a new one.  Without realizing it, they embark on a life-changing detour.  The good kind.  The God kind.

So there I am, Easter Sunday, sitting among people whose lives are the inverse of my own, holding my perfect baby girl in my arms, feeling both thankful and ashamed.  Thankful for the blessing of my detour, the gift of my daughter. Ashamed that I’ve spent the last two months focused solely and squarely on self.

I believe in the premise behind this project.  That life happens right here, right now.  That we can’t put our dreams on hold when life throws us for a loop.  That we may have to change our dreams, to reimagine them in the context of our present circumstance, but that our detours shouldn’t define us.  Our dreams should.

But.

Life is bigger than us.  Life is bigger than our dreams and bigger than our detours.  As Eric said in his sermon on the Resurrection, “our lives are part of a bigger picture.”  He challenged his congregation to change their view of the Easter story.  To widen it.  To see the Resurrection as the beginning of a process of restoration and transformation that’s happening HERE.  NOW.  To consider what role each of us might play in that process.   RIGHT HERE.  RIGHT NOW.  Right where we are.

After church, Husband, Lil Mil and I had lunch with Eric and his family, and then we got in our car and headed back to Cleveland.

We looked the same.

We weren’t the same.

Two days later, I am back home, back to regular life, back to Game Plans and page counts and the pursuit of productivity.  But something has changed.

I am no longer looking for detour signs.  I am trying to figure out how I can be one.

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(Do you see your life as part of a bigger picture?  Have your detours made you more inwardly or outwardly focused?  Have there been people in your life that you now know were detour signs?  Have you been a detour sign for someone else?)

(I rarely talk about Sister on this blog, mostly because trying to do her justice in a blog post would be a futile [and excessively frustrating] undertaking.  She’s too awesome for words.  But I can’t not mention her today, because she is a detour sign.  For 15 kids living in an orphanage in Kenya, she is the signal that life is about to change.  Please check out her blog and the website for Beat the Drum Village.)

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