Detour signs on freeways and other roads are not necessarily a welcome site, especially if you are hoping to arrive at your destination on time. Add the notification of road construction signs and the closure of lanes, then long-distance driving can become more of a challenge.
The drive from Baltimore, MD to Princeton, N.J. is between 2.5 and 3 hours depending upon the traffic. On I-95 you have a toll station at the Maryland-Delaware line, and also one at Newark, DE. Twelve dollars later you will find yourself going further north . You can decide to continue on I-95, or you can opt to go over the Delaware-New Jersey bridge (another toll) and then on to the New Jersey Turnpike for yet another toll.
During my most recent drive, I chose to continue going on I-95. I got to the fork in the road between I-295 and I-95. Unlike Robert Frost, instead of taking the direction towards Trenton, I went the other direction towards New York and immediately recognized my mistake, that being on the New Jersey Turnpike ( pay another toll ).
I now was concerned because I wanted to get to the Princeton train station in time to pick up my cousin, who was coming in from New York. I looked at the toll ticket and decided to make the next exit, Bordentown, N.J. hometown of Clara Barton, who in 1852 started the first free public school in New Jersey and later founded the American Red Cross. A re-creation of her schoolhouse stands at the corner of Crosswicks and Burlington streets. The Bordentown School operated from 1894 to 1955. Bordentown, New Jersey – Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bordentown,_New_Jersey
I drove up to the toll booth and asked the attendant “ how do I get to Princeton, N.J?” After paying another toll ( $ 1.30), he smiled and told me to follow Route 1 which in turn took me back to I-295 and then on to the Princeton Pike exit.
I was able to get to the Princeton train station early and met my cousin right outside the Wawa store.
Detours can sometimes be a welcome experience. Luke’s Gospel records the story of Jesus entering the town of Jericho and encountering Zacchaeus, who was a rich tax collector- a collector of tolls. Zacchaeus was small in stature and so therefore he had to climb a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus pass that way. Jesus calls Zacchaeus by his name, not his title, and says “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today. “ ( Luke 19: 1-10 )
The journey of Jesus from Capernaum to Jerusalem was not direct, but rather it was circuitous. Jesus went out of the direct line of travel. He goes 50 miles out of his way to Jericho in order to see Zacchaeus. (Sermon: “Master Haste To Welcome The Uninvited “Daniel Heath, Seminarian Assistant, University Chapel, Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. October 28 2018).
Jesus takes a detour.
Jesus also humanizes, validates another human calling him by his name.
There will be times in life, invariably for all of us, when things will not go as planned. The journey will not be a straight line, but rather may instead resemble the drive on Highway 1 going through Big Sur, Ca.
Yet hopefully, we might find toll collectors who will help to guide us in the right direction. People who can recognize us, call us by our name in order to affirm our own unique life in the world, and in our relationship with the divine, however known.
May it be so.