The Big Detours

Mar 27, 2020

We are honored to host psychologist, author and speaker Dr. Robert J. Wicks this fall. He will be presenting “Simple Care of a Hopeful Heart: Strengthening Your Inner Life In Challenging Times” on Saturday, November 14. Click here to read more about this retreat and Dr. Wicks. When reflecting upon this Lenten season and the pandemic, Dr. Wicks wrote the following to share with our community.


Recently I was on the way home on a route I had always taken because it was the fastest. Up ahead I could see a detour sign indicating I would need to take a circuitous route home instead of my usual one. My immediate natural reaction was annoyance. After a moment though, I realized that this was silly. I had my GPS to ensure I wouldn’t get lost and, although it would take me longer, it wasn’t a big deal after all.

The detour took me through a neighborhood I hadn’t seen before because I would never “waste” the time to take this path home. What I saw made me smile: old houses that had carefully been restored, open fields in which children played, and large majestic trees that stood out impressively in the distance. A true graced experience made possible by my willingness to let go of annoyance so I could have the inner space for wonder.

In a way, both Lent and the Coronavirus are our detours now from normal life. One is taken voluntarily, the other is forced upon us. The question is: What can both teach us?

First, we don’t have to worry about getting lost if we remember we have our GPS: faith. Second, if we don’t focus on the deprivations, we can experience kenosis, the emptying of ourselves. When this happens we don’t feel a sense of sacrifice but instead find ourselves open to more…much, much more.

So, how can we walk through the portal of kenosis rather than standing outside this open door to new spiritual and psychological awakenings? Well, first we need to be clear that Lent and certainly the Coronavirus, in different ways, are certainly not experiences we may desire for ourselves on a daily basis. To do so would be a journey in spiritual romanticism and foolishness. Life is tough enough without seeking to make it more difficult.

However, when we voluntarily embrace Lent, and not deny the difficulties and serious dangers presented by the Coronavirus, we can let them empty us of our usual expectations of life. We can stop mindlessly running toward our grave by being a victim of habit. Instead, we can wake up to the new and creative ways in life which traveling a spiritual and psychological detour can provide if we welcome them.

The key will be: how we travel this detour. Will it be with nostalgia—simply looking back at how life was before sacrifice and change? Will it be by projecting ourselves into the future—when will all of this end? Or, will we travel with a sense of being present in the now so, like me on my physical detour coming home, we can realize there is so much we often miss because of embracing habit, speed, and expediency. Wouldn’t it be better to be open to experiencing a different interior neighborhood, that offers so much more, if we have the GPS of faith and take some quiet time to ask: what is God offering us now in both Lent and the dangers of the Coronavirus? To a great extent, the answer is up to us.

Dr. Robert J. Wicks’ latest books are: HEARTSTORMING: Creating a Place God Can Call Home (Paulist Press) and THE TAO OF ORDINARINESS: Humility and Simplicity in a Narcissistic Age (Oxford University Press).