Life Detours

I feel like our guardian angels were working together," says Elise.

Dixil Rodríguez

I often wonder how guardian angels respond to what they observe, especially mine. I never thought about it until I began volunteering.

One day a young boy was brought into the emergency room after being trapped in a vehicle for hours, where he witnessed the loss of his family. Young, profoundly brave and intuitive, he said: “Pray with me? I prayed with everyone in the car. My guardian angel was there. I am gonna hug him when we meet.”

That event rushes to mind as I watch a family get into a vehicle and hear their plans for the day, their laughter. I have started to call these moments of recollection a life detour, that moment that God lets me take an unexpected turn to arrive at an expected destination—for the rest of my life: a tangible memory of being in the presence of the Holy Spirit when the space around me was so full of mercy there was no room for any doubt.

In my rental car I confirm driving directions on the GPS. It may seem strange to leave three hours early for a speaking engagement only a half hour away. However, this speaking engagement is at a university where I want to visit the library (and maybe the bookstore).

I feel like our guardian angels were working together,” says Elise.

Forty-five minutes later I do not regret leaving early. The GPS failed to note roadwork. The once-friendly “navigator voice” now repeats, “Rerouting.” Ahead, a sign: “DETOUR.” I decide to pull into a gas station farther ahead and ask for help. I pray God will send me some help. I hear a drizzle, then a downpour! Sigh.

Then I see her on the side of the road, holding a broken umbrella, walking away from a vehicle with two flat tires. As I get closer, I think: What if she’s praying for help? I pull over.

Her name is Elise. Today is her first day at a new job. It takes us a half hour to reach the gas station. As we walk into the gas station’s “store” she asks: “Why did you stop?”

A life detour comes to mind. One day my mother, driving home from work, saw a woman stranded on the side of the road in the rain. My mother felt moved to stop and offer a stranger a way home. Elise wipes away tears: “Tell your mother I am grateful. I was praying for someone to help me.”

That’s the thing about detours: sometimes you remember them; sometimes you share them.

Minutes later I have a napkin with a semi-legible map to my destination, and Elise has called for a tow truck. I glance at the slow traffic. Will the tow truck make it on time? I ask how far away we are from her workplace. “Not far,” she says. “I know a detour; back roads get you to the university in minutes.” A new plan made, we are driving down a different road faster than any rerouting suggestions from a GPS.

“I feel like our guardian angels were working together,” says Elise.

That’s the thing about detours: we never take them alone. In this life we are guaranteed heavenly company and direction.

Dixil Rodríguez, a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas.

Dixil Rodríguez