by Carol Kuykendall
“You can do anything you want to do … you can be anything you want to be … if you just try hard enough,” my mother used to promise me when I was growing up. But in a painful life-defining moment in high school, I discovered she was wrong.
I so wanted to be a cheerleader and began practicing with my best friends in the auditorium after school. I practiced in my driveway after I got home. I practiced in my bedroom after dark. I even practiced in my sleep as I dreamed of being elected cheerleader.
By the time those tryouts rolled around, I had practiced more than any of my friends — and I was ready! But after the votes were counted, I faced a painful reality. They made it — and I didn’t. I had tried as hard as I knew how, but I lost. Even though my mother intended to encourage me, her promise was not true.
So, I had to turn a corner that year. Re-invent myself. Find a new identity. Eventually, I became a reporter — and then the editor — of the school newspaper, and discovered a passion for words that I’ve pursued ever since.
I went on to experience many other life-defining moments that have shaped me into who I am today. An unexpected pregnancy, which at first frightened me and then wonderfully enlarged my capacity for mothering. A child’s chronic disease that frustrated and then deepened my faith. My diagnosis of cancer, which made me mad and sad, and then inspired my awareness of what matters most.
Each of these circumstances unexpectedly changed the direction of my life, which then changed me. I read somewhere that most of us have to be forced to change because we don’t usually choose change on our own. If that’s true, maybe these life-defining moments are really God’s divine detours. These detours have given me unique opportunities to grow more into the person he’s created me to be, and prepared me for the future he has planned for me.
I know for sure that my divine detours have shaped my mothering and kept me from promising our children that they can do or be anything they desire, if they just try hard enough. I know it’s not always the depth of our longings or even our determination that controls our outcomes. We sometimes hit barriers that we can’t control.
Our children are adults now, but I still find myself wanting to step in and re-route some of their unexpected and difficult detours through infertility struggles, job disappointments or financial challenges. And then I remember how my own detours through dark valleys have always given me greater endurance and perspective.
Since they were preschoolers, I’ve been comforted by a Bible verse that helps me trust God’s protection and purposes in his divine detours — for them and for me:
“See I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” Exodus 23:20
Carol Kuykendall is a Consulting Editor for MomSense magazine, the author of Five Simple Ways to Grow a Great Family and co-author of What Every Mom Needs, available at MOPShop.org.