As I drove the other day and saw the still new Maryland Intercounty Connector, I thought about how I could use it to avoid having to drive in traffic between two major commuter routes, Interstates-270 and 95. The bypass was constructed to take the pressure off of the crowded Capital Beltway and to provide a quick link from east to west. I have driven on it a few times, and it is always underutilized.
The problem with the ICC, as it is known, is that it is expensive. Provided you are a regular user and purchase a transponder to register your comings-and-goings, it costs $4 to travel the 13.8 miles between I-270 and I-95 during rush hour. The infrequent user pays $6. The cost to the infrequent user is over 43 cents per mile, a major disincentive.
It appears that bypasses are expensive. There are a half-million heart bypass surgeries each year in the United States. The average cost of the surgery is $44,820.
But the cost of a bypass is not always measured in dollars. Three thousand years ago there was a bypass when the Jewish people wandered in the desert after escaping from Egypt. It took them 40 years to make the journey, and almost all who left Egypt died in the desert en route to the Promised Land.
Then, of course, there was Jonah’s bypass — or, more correctly, attempted bypass. God told him to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. Jonah wanted to bypass that command so he ran. What he encountered as a result of taking the bypass was an incredibly violent storm, being thrown into the sea, being swallowed by a giant fish and then being barfed up onto dry land (now that must have been a pleasant experience) at exactly the same spot where his journey began.
Taking the bypass is called avoidance behavior. Zaphod Beeblebrox, a character from Douglas Adams’ five-part science fiction trilogy, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” had what he felt was an effective avoidance mechanism. Whenever he was faced with danger, his glasses would turn opaque so he couldn’t see it. We may not have the glasses, but we often copy Zaphod.
Some people choose the bypass and avoidance, and take the long way home. Actually, it is probably better said that we all take bypasses and the long way home sometimes. We allow ourselves to be caught in some negative behavior that drags us down. We resort to drugs or alcohol, not talking with our spouse or children, or cutting corners on our job as ways to avoid what needs to be done. Our friends can see it in us. Sometimes even we can see it. We’re just not ready or willing to change it.
What can we do if we find a friend taking the long way home? We can love that friend. He or she is struggling with life and needs as much support, but not enablement, as possible. We can pray for them — heaven knows they need it. And, we can hold out a hand for when they are ready. We can’t force people to change their ways; that needs to come from within, but we can be ready to help when they are ready to receive it.
If you’re on that bypass today taking the long way home, look around — there is a path back to the main road. It may not be right in front of you, but its not far ahead. Find it. Take it. You will find Someone holding out His hand for you.