Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Goodbyes and a Good God

I hate goodbyes.
   I hate them
        hate them
           hate them!!

I'm also really bad at them. Whether I know I will see the person the next day or if I don't know if I'll ever see them again, I am awful at goodbyes. My friends can attest to this. They will tell you that I will walk away, end the conversation, leave the party, etc. THEN five minutes later that friend is getting a text from me. It's usually a thought that I see as necessary.. and sometimes it starts a whole new conversation. It's like.. I don't know. It's like subconsciously I just cannot end the conversation. I also feel the need for closure. A note that says "ah, I'm finished." I want everything to be tied up into a neat little bow. (and that's called control and probably a whole different blog).

I've noticed this character trait more in the past few days. Partially because I've said a lot of goodbyes. Today I noticed that I "ended" a text conversation like 3 times...I just kept talking!
A few days ago I looked at the faces of my four closest friends. This semester has brought us adventure, laughter, tears, and community like no other. But, this day,we were all at one friend's house to wish each other well for the summer. Two are staffing camps, and one is leaving for a mission trip this week. Not that big of a deal, right? Wrong. See, at the end of this summer, only two of the five of us are returning to LC. We are all heading in different directions. So, there was this tinge of extra sadness in our minds understanding that we have no idea when the five of us will be back together again. And even if we do reconvene once before school starts, the visits after that will be few and far between. No more late night card games, no more adventures, no more long drives and prayer times, no more hanging out in the student center together. That's stinking hard for me. This semester was incredible. I've never before found community like this. Everyone felt the sadness in saying goodbye. Our personalities truly showed. We kept hugging each other. One girl began to cry and then laughed it off "BAH! too many emotions!" Another hugged each person and wished them well, while saying "You are going to be okay." I just said "I love you" to each one, then got really quiet.   The guy in our group, Luke, sent us all a text that night.  He told us that this was not goodbye, but that we are all secret agents being sent on unique missions and that we will come back in due time. Also,  that afternoon, not 5 minutes after we all left,  I spoke with the one other friend not doing anything this summer. We agreed that the two of us must spend time together because we already felt alone.
And there it is. Alone. It's one of the scariest words I know. Saying goodbye (depending on the degree) can make one feel incredibly alone. I have wrestled with this for a while now. It is this stripping of all I think I have so that I have Jesus only. It's hard. But He is faithful.
That night, I heard a song I've heard multiple times. It's called "Empty" and is from the perspective of the disciples. I heard the lyrics  that I had never really paid attention to "The tears come easy when You say You're leaving..."

It hit me. Jesus himself  knows what it's like to say goodbye to his closest friends. Even typing those words makes my eyes well. (No- really, this thing goes deep for me. Many more goodbyes than this one instance). When Jesus ascended into heaven, He said goodbye.
Jesus had done life with these men for three years. They were always with him. They knew each other deeply. And Jesus died on the cross and his disciples were devastated, no doubt. Then, he rose again. Oh the celebration!
Wait, now,  You're leaving again? What? Why?
Jesus looked his men in the eyes and told them that He had to go back to the Father. He knew that his friends would never see Him again on Earth. He knew that this goodbye was long lasting. In the human way of thinking, He was saying goodbye forever.
From Jesus' perspective, He was saying goodbye for the glory of God. It was an exchange for something better and bigger. He knew the hope that was waiting for the disciples if He left and ascended. He knew that the pain was necessary.
I can imagine that the disciples began to feel afraid and... alone. And Jesus knew that. That's why earlier He promised the Holy Spirit would come after He left.(John 14) He said the earth would not see Him much longer, but promised that the Holy Spirit would come. He  called the Holy Spirit a Comforter. Jesus knew. He knew the ache his friends would feel when he left. He knew the fear and loneliness. He knew what saying goodbye would bring.
And it is in that Comforter that I found a new comfort. Jesus knows what it feels like to say goodbye. He has not ever asked me to do something  He has not already done.
It vanishes any idea or feelings of being alone when I remember that the God of the universe gets me. Even when I am alone, I'm never alone. Ever.

It goes for you, too. Whatever  or whoever it is that you have said goodbye to, Jesus gets it. He cares. He is truly a sympathetic High Priest.

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