I have heard it many times. This life path I am choosing. This taking Him at His word and going. This persistent reluctance to settle. This saying "here I am...send me." This beautiful adventure is filled with many things but mostly goodbyes.
I've sat through classes where a visiting lecturer living in the furthest corner of the world would speak of great adventures and miraculous encounters. They would speak of the great rewards. But also the great goodbyes. This commitment to going comes with a great commitment to goodbyes.
There is a difference between acceptance and enjoyment. I did not realize this difference until recently. I have said a lot of goodbyes and if we are being honest they have not all been graceful. Just ask the kind Malawian man who slowing handed me his crackers on our flight leaving that tiny African nation. This gesture was his nonverbal effort to ease the sobs coming from the crazy white girl he got stuck sitting next to.
It's almost become humorous. I convince myself that this goodbye, I'll do better. Then as I feel the lump in my throat thicken I attempt to force my growing emotions to subside. I almost always fail. I sob. On airplanes, on I-10 North...and South, on trains, on buses full of strangers, basically on any transport you can imagine. This oh so familiar throat lump that no matter how hard I try nearly never goes away. I fail at not feeling.
And each time I fail and the tears flow and my heart deeply feels the goodbye, I subconsciously lessen myself. Degrade that weak emotional girl that just can't seem to stay strong. How dare I not enjoy the sacrifice? He has called you away. You am walking in obedience. Why am are you mourning? Oh you weak one, suck it up and rejoice for this is the day the Lord has made. I sale myself sort on account of uncontrollable emotions. If I am called to a life of goodbyes, each time I fail at feeling them, I count myself out. I can't do this. I can't continue this way. Oh weak little girl if you could just get over it, this would be so much easier for us.
But...since when did sacrifice become easy. Since when did my emotions become irrelevant. Since when did God tell me to stop feeling. Because if I stop feeling then I have quit loving.
But still how can I manage this if I am called to goodbyes and goodbyes ruin me.
Paul. Oh Paul. The great "Go-er". He who counted his life as nothing. He who gave everything for the sake of the call. Surely He was a great sayer of goodbyes. He was strong, sure of his call. He rejoiced in suffering.
Acts 20. Paul says goodbye. With eloquence and assurance. He loved the Ephesians but he, walking in obedience said goodbye. He encouraged his dear friends. And he left...but what's this? "And there was much weeping on the part of all"(vs. 37)
First there was mourning.
Mourning? They wept? They embraced? They were sad? Paul and the Ephesians were not hindered by their feelings but they allowed them to be felt. The overflow of their love for each other was manifested in tears wept. Paul did not stay because it hurt but he didn't leave before he created space to feel the hurt. He allowed time for the sacrifice to be mourned and then he gladly left.
As believers, whether being sent to the far corners, or to the door next to ours, we all will experience this. We are not created to be kept secure and never feel the pain of leaving. We say goodbye everyday to something. Most of the time the goodbyes lead to great new hellos. But God, in His great gentleness, allows us to feel the pain of a goodbye, to mourn over a season apart. We can surely rejoice in a sacrifice and mourn in it all at the same time.
So next time my throat lump makes an appearance, I will allow it to emerge. Feeling not weak but balanced. Knowing that mourning doesn't mean despising and rejoicing doesn't mean ignoring. And I will thank the Father who created my heart to feel. Because if there wasn't great love than goodbyes would be easy. As the words of the great Winnie the Pooh, "I am grateful that I have those that make saying goodbye so hard".
Thank you Father, I am grateful for the great love that causes hard goodbyes. I'll say goodbye for You as many times as You lead. I'll feel the pain of separation for the sake of unity with You. I'll willingly mourn as I disembark so that others can embark on journey of saying Hello to You. Teach my heart to mourn well. To feel everything to the degree that you desire. But may I never allow my feelings to interrupt my going. May my mourning never cause me to quit. But rather would it thrust me towards the "Far, far better things ahead".