Recently, our family spent the weekend celebrating our son Cameron’s graduation from Liberty University. It was a fun weekend filled with a lot of excitement. Parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and friends gathered to celebrate a milestone in Cameron’s life. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, honored the 2017 class at Liberty by giving his very first commencement address as President. We were all so proud. Several times during the weekend tears filled my eyes as I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment for our son knowing the obstacles and challenges he had overcome along the way.

The journey to a college degree was not a straight one for Cameron. He turned 27 this March. When he graduated from high school he wanted to play football while he was in college so he attended North Carolina Wesleyan. He had a few minor injuries in the fall of that year which slowed his progress on the football field. During his second semester he tore his ACL which not only sent him into a physical tailspin, but an emotional and academic one as well. His GPA a mess, he moved back home and began attending a local community college. While there, he tore his ACL a second time yet was able to stay focused enough on his grades to remain in school during rehab. A couple of years after leaving NC Wesleyan he went back to play football again.  A relationship went south during that time which became the catalyst for another cycle of academic struggles. These setbacks began to take a toll on Cameron but he never gave up.

Over several years between attempts at full-time schooling, Cameron searched for the right career path. He ran our family business for several years. He coached football at the middle school and high school level for four of those years. He got his auction license during that time. All in an attempt to find some secure footing moving forward in life. He struggled to find fulfillment and the right fit for him.

After moving back home a second time and trying some of those career options, he started attending College of the Albemarle again on a part-time basis. Over a couple of years he was able to raise his GPA and in January 2015 he and his girlfriend Cassidy enrolled at Liberty University. The last two and a half years has had it’s own share of ups and downs; struggles with focus, decisions about career paths and more attempts at athletics. I am sure if I felt emotions welling inside of me during graduation weekend, Cameron certainly experienced them multiple times over.

You may be reading this and thinking “What a difficult journey he has had to get his degree”, but I think most of us can relate to detours during our life that delayed things we thought would be much easier. I know if you had asked Cameron if he expected to be getting his degree nine years after finishing high school he would have probably thought you were crazy. He had no way to predict the obstacles he would face or how he would respond to them. Each of us has experienced problems and difficulties and has at times struggled to respond positively. I know I can relate to times in my own life when plans I had made turned into disaster and it took me much longer to arrive at a destination than expected. There are a few things I know about life and one of them is that there are very few straight paths.

Each of us takes detours and stops along the way. Accidents slow us down and options distract us. We make choices that hinder us and sometimes alter the path we can take. Detours are a normal part of life. Even the most disciplined of souls has troubles and setbacks they had not anticipated. It is in those moments that our lives are shaped and we are given things that will allow us to help others along their journey. As I shared on social media the day Cameron graduated, “detours can delay but they cannot deter”.

I am not sure where you are in your life or where you were hoping to be at this point and time. Maybe you have had your own delays or detours. You may be looking around asking yourself why you are not further along. You are not alone. There are some things you should know about where you are and what you can do.

Everyone has detours

We use a lot of words to describe detours like valleys, trials, tribulations or setbacks. Usually we are referring to the fact that many of the things we struggle with are not our own fault. Though I do not want to diminish the fact that there are circumstances beyond our control, most of the time our life detours are the result of choices we have made without fully weighing the consequences. There is not a single person exempt from this. Some may have found a way to disguise those times or they may have corrected quickly enough so that very few people even noticed. However, everyone has had moments when their life was not exactly on the course they expected.

It is much like driving a car on the interstate. Sometimes you take the wrong exit and you immediately recognize it and go straight across the overpass and continue on your way with an almost unnoticeable delay. Other times we take a wrong exit and it takes us longer to get back on the right road than the entire trip should have taken. Don’t use others as an excuse but also don’t isolate yourself by believing you are the only one facing these problems. Everyone has had a detour or two in their life; some they chose and some they don’t.

The goal is still achievable

The good news is that no matter what path you have followed, most of your goals are still reachable. If you believe you can’t, you’re right, whether you can or not. Understand that a delay has not destroyed your ability to achieve the things you set out to do. It may not be immediate and it may take time to recover, heal or correct the path you chose, but it is possible. Don’t expect it to happen overnight. Be patient and continue moving in the right direction. We often get discouraged because we can so quickly get off course but take so much longer to make corrections. One thing is true, if you walk long enough in the right direction you will eventually end up at the right destination.

Use your detour to help someone else navigate

One of the unfortunate things about the struggles we have in life is that we often are embarrassed or ashamed of what has happened and we never talk about it. How much help would it have been to you if someone was willing to share their struggles with detours and life challenges when you were dealing with your issues? If someone else’s story helped you or could have been beneficial to you, then you should understand that your story will help someone as well. Use your own experiences to help others navigate their own challenges and offer them hope that their detour is not a dead end. Your story matters and someone else needs to hear it.

I know full well the struggles of poor choices and life detours. As a matter of fact some of my detours may very well have contributed to some of Cameron’s struggles. I share Cameron’s story to encourage. I believe stories matter. That is why I have shared some of my own struggles and detours in my book “The Long Walk Back” which is coming out soon . I hope that my own personal failures and recovery will help you as you navigate your own challenges and choices.