I love the line from Pride and Prejudice when the smooth-talking, but devilish Mr. Wickham says, “Let us say not farewell, but as the French have it, au revoir!” It sounds good, but as you’re standing there waiving goodbye, you are still letting go.
Letting go is hard to do.
Many of you have had to say goodbye more than you’d like during the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, as you’ve watched loved ones or friends pass from this life to the next due in some way to the virus. Yet, for those who choose a life on mission, goodbyes become a regular part of life, though they are just as hard.
I remember my oldest son becoming sad one day, as he reflected on yet another opportunity to say goodbye to friends he’d grown to love. We may want to simply say au revoir, but in most cases, goodbye better suits, as distance and time refuse to draw us once again together.
So, how do we adapt to this new reality in service? What can we learn from all the goodbyes required?
Goodbyes are a reminder that life is short and relationships matter.
Much as we feel when a loved one passes away, we learn from goodbyes that we need to make every moment count in our relationships. Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you should share with them today—whether it’s a hug, a kiss, an “I love you,” or a shared meal; put down the device, turn off the TV, and have a face-to-face conversation with your friends or family.
Goodbyes go both ways in service.
While it’s hard to say goodbye to family you’re leaving to serve, it’s also hard to say goodbye to national friends you’ve grown to love, because you’re going on furlough or have to quickly leave the country. Understand the sense of grief you may feel for either group and know that God understands the hurt separation can cause. Give yourself margin to grieve the goodbye.
Goodbyes don’t have to be the end.
During a recent opportunity to say goodbye, someone told me they couldn’t imagine how I did it during the pre-internet days. I’ll admit it was hard, but even so, I wrote and received letters, filled with news and love. Now, more than ever, the blow of goodbyes is lessened by email, facetime, and other ways to stay connected in the virtual world.
Goodbyes are an opportunity to trust God.
We say we’ll pray, but God sometimes uses the point of actual separation to draw us to our knees in fervent prayer. I think of Paul’s farewell to Ephesian believers who had traveled to Miletus to see their beloved spiritual father one more time before he headed to unknown danger in Jerusalem. Luke reports:
When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.Acts 20:36-38 NIV
Paul’s departure meant he had to trust this fledgling group into God’s hands, and those young believers had to trust God for the watchcare over Paul.
Goodbyes are unique to this temporary life.
The longer we live, the more goodbyes we face, but the longer we live, the more we look forward to the time when we will say goodbye no more. Eternity is the place of continual fellowship and relationship, with God and with other believers. No goodbyes required.
Are you having to say goodbye in the coming days? Ask the Lord to give you his perspective and peace in separations you must face and trust those you love into his care.
Grace and Peace