Though I preached that sermon as a message to all of us, it was especially ringing true to me as I had spent the previous few months feeling strongly that I was being drawn into an odyssey that I had not anticipated. And my own odyssey would serve the same purposes. A couple of months later I preached my final sermon and within days was surrounded by strangers living in a strange city ten hours away.
It's been about three years since I preached that message. It has indeed been quite an odyssey. All of the weaknesses of my character have been revealed. About a year and a half into the odyssey I left the strange city and came into what I anticipated to be a familiar port. I had sailed this way before and it had been a five-year port-of-call before leaving to plant our church. I anticipated all of the familiar faces of friends. And I had hoped that my arrival back in this familiar place would end the strangeness of my odyssey and allow me to settle back into a normal, pleasant, predictable way of life.
The odyssey continued.
I found this place to be much different from when I left it. Or, perhaps, it was I who was much different. I believe it was both. The faces were familiar, but the voices seemed to have changed. The relationships I once enjoyed and looked forward to resuming had become strangely disfigured. And the role I thought I would play in the lives of those around me, in the highways and byways of the city, turned out to be the thing of unfulfilled dreams.
This blog became a chronicle of my odyssey in this place. If you dig back through the pages you'll find the writings of a man lost in a familiar place. You'll hear the frustration of a man waking up to find all of the furniture had been rearranged in the night. You'll read the words of a man who had forgotten his own identity. Most of all you'll read the thoughts of a man longing for the kindness of God in a strangely foreign, dry and thirsty land where springs of cool, clear water used to abound.
A few months ago I laid down the pen. I had finally given up on my pursuit of the kindness of God, settled for exile, and turned my attention elsewhere. Today I am taking the pen back in my hand. In the last few weeks I have come to see that this odyssey has been God's pursuit of me more than my pursuit of God. And it is through the revealing and refining of my character that God has shouted his love and kindness to me.
To those of you who have remained as subscribers to this blog, I hope you'll rejoin me as important characters in my odyssey. Perhaps I can serve as an important character in yours. In taking up the pen again, I considered going back and deleting many of the posts that reveal the darker facets of my character that have been most in need of refining. But I quickly realized that there would be no integrity in doing so. They are important pages of the odyssey and the story is incomplete and incoherent without them.
I look forward to resuming with you the journey forward into the kindness of God.