The definition of Odyssey: A long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune, an intellectual or spiritual wandering or quest. It came from a poem Homer wrote nearly 3000 years ago about a man who spent decades just trying to return home from a journey.
After crisscrossing America and putting on enough miles that we could have gone from Coast to Coast to Coast and then some, I don't think there could have been a more fitting word. It was 6200 miles altogether. We crossed the Continental Divide 6 times, and while I saw more of America in that 10 days than in the rest of my entire life, I'm not sure I would have hopped in the passenger seat if I would have known then what I know now.
Our biggest takeaway was God.
Yes, read that again. It wasn't the Gulf or the Arch or the Columbia, it wasn't the Rockies or Mt. Ranier or Mt. Hood, it wasn't the Pacific, wasn't the blizzard, it was God, in the middle of Wyoming.
We broke down just outside of Alcova around 30 miles SW of Casper, Wyoming as a storm was moving in. It was 30 degrees and the wind was whipping, and we had no reception so we had to start hiking. We got to the top of a ridge and got just enough bars on the phone to make an emergency call for a wrecker, then marked our spot on the map for the gals back home just in case nobody ever heard from us again. ;).
We were cold and tired, but we were hauling 2 Ford pickup trucks on our trailer, so we unstrapped and offloaded one of them to fire it up and keep warm. While we were waiting on top of that little mountain for the wrecker to pop over the horizon, I flipped on the radio for my friend who was now in the passenger seat. He was a man's man, tough, knowledgeable, hard-working as they come, and able as any man I've ever met in my years, but not right at that moment. At that moment he was deflated, defeated, at the end of his rope, and my encouraging words just weren't enough to cut through.
Then on the radio comes this sermon out of nowhere. A sermon about a man, in his mid 50's, having a midlife crisis, all of his dreams and plans evaporating as he is broke down on the side of the road. Still, In the midst of all those false hopes and broken promises, God is there. We only need to put our hope in Him, and if we can just do that then we can never truly run out of hope again.
At that moment the pinpoint of our entire odyssey came into razor focus. The Maker of the heavens and earth was reaching out to this defeated man on a hilltop in the middle of Wyoming, and saying as clear as a bell, "I'm here, I'm with you, and I've got something I've been trying to tell you for a long, long time now."
Friends, I've seen this over and over in my life. It doesn't matter who you are, how hard or soft your heart is. It doesn't matter where you are or what you've done. It doesn't matter if you're even listening or completely ignoring Him. God is chasing you. He's jealous for you, and He loves you with a white-hot passion and intensity that is unmatched and incomparable to anything else we can experience on this earth. The reason none of the other circumstances matter is because it isn't about us. It's about Him, and His love doesn't change. He doesn't sway back and forth like a reed in the wind. He is a rock, immovable, unshakeable in His resolve to reach you and make Himself known on a level that reaches down to the very marrow of our souls.
Whatever else you hang your hope in, take it down off the hook today and hand it over to Jesus. Let Him be the only hope. Is it your job, your career, your money, your relationships, your success, your things? How many kings, how many Odysseus's have cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus, realizing that it was all meaningless in comparison? The answer is easy. Every single one in the end as they stood before Him. My friend can tell you today that any and all of those things can evaporate in a breath. Every single thing he had placed his hope in on our little odyssey had crumbled into ashes, and at the end of it all, there still was God, telling my friend just like He once told me, "Hold on. If you're still breathing I'm not finished with you yet."