I was reminded today of why I hate saying goodbye. To me, it feels so completely unnatural. Every time I say goodbye to someone I get the distinct impression that something is wrong – that part of my heart is being pulled away in a different direction. I reread that and thought, Wow. Dramatic much? But it’s true.
Yesterday I went to my uncle’s ordination ceremony. In a few months he, my aunt, and three cousins are moving to Uganda to live and work as missionaries. They are in the process of selling or giving away literally everything they own in order to make this transition. They’ll be gone for several years, and the reality that they will be gone is really starting to set in. I watched my granddaddy cry last night as he feels the weight of the looming ‘goodbye’ and the pain that will follow.
Today I moved everything out of my apartment and said goodbye to my roommate and close friend, knowing I won’t see her again until August when I’m back from camp. We promised to write and keep each other updated throughout the summer; when we left each other I’m pretty sure one of us said, “I don’t like this. Goodbyes aren’t fun.”
Earlier tonight I had my last day of work until I get back from camp. I work in the children’s program at a gym, and so I basically spend most of my days playing with the kids and making sure they don’t injure themselves or each other. Over the last several months the kids have become my kids. They’re close to my heart and I love them. Having to explain to 7 and 8 year olds why I was leaving them for 3 months was extremely difficult – I think some of the kids’ worlds were shaken. There is one particular group of kids – 4 siblings and 1 cousin – that have become particularly important to me. They are from Saudi Arabia and over the past several months I have developed a close relationship with the family. They are the bright spot of my day every time I go into work; I’ve loved getting to know them and pour into them over time. So when I found out this past week that they would not be at the gym when I returned, I very nearly lost it. When they left tonight they gave me hugs, promised to somehow keep in touch, and I did my best not to cry.
And then, on my drive home, I thought about how in two weeks and two days I’ll have to say goodbye again. And then every week of camp I’ll have to say goodbye to each kid that God brings into my Bible study or track time. And then when summer rolls to an end I’ll have to say goodbye to my CK7 family. Last summer I sat in the airport and cried when I left CK5, and then cried the whole plain ride back – I doubt this year will be any different.
Life is full of goodbyes. And I hate goodbyes.
And yet, even in the midst of these thoughts, I’m reminded of the fact that my Savior is not unfamiliar with goodbyes. I read Philippians 2 this morning and it was talking about the humility of Christ, and how He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” – He stepped down from the right hand of God and became a human. What must that goodbye have been like? Or how about when Jesus shared His last meal with His disciples, knowing that in a short matter of time they would all scatter, deserting Him, denying they even knew Him – how painful must that have been? Or what about when God turned His face away from Christ when Christ took on the full extent of our sin – wasn’t that the ultimate separation? How painful! Or even when Jesus ascended into heaven and left his disciples with the promise of the Holy Spirit – I mean, Jesus had walked with these men for three years; I can’t help but think that both He and the disciples felt the strain of goodbye.
Thinking on these things comforts me in several ways. I’m reminded that my Savior understands. Often I assume that He couldn’t really get what I’m feeling. Wait, you’re having a hard time saying goodbye? Letting go of relationships? Um..golly, I don’t really know…I don’t have much experience in that area… In reality, Christ understands and can sympathize (Heb. 4:15). Also, I’m reminded that God uses difficult things (James likes to call them “trials”) in order to produce steadfastness and complete faith in our walks with Him. Real growth occurs only in difficult times; and when I look back over the events of my life, I see that a large amount of growth has occurred in the context of saying goodbye. Because for me, saying goodbye produces a vulnerability and opens up the door for God to develop my trust and faith in Him.
“Trials” take many different forms, and they are different for every individual. For me, goodbyes are definitely a trial. And I’ve never liked them. However, James calls us to “count it all joy” when we experience trials, because we know that this testing will refine us, develop steadfastness, and ultimately draw us into a closer relationship with Christ. And when I really think about it – the fact that God uses circumstances to bring me closer to Him – isn’t that both incredibly humbling and thrilling?
Maybe goodbyes aren’t so bad.