Goodbyes are never easy. I am not talking about “see you later,” but about really saying goodbye. By now, you have made friends with some of these other people from around the country. But tomorrow morning we are going to say goodbye to all that. Chances are, we will never see them again. We may become Facebook friends, but the friendships that were forged here will never be re-created.
For Christians, saying goodbye takes on a different dimension. Since we are the Church, people who have been called out by God, we can expect God to call us to go out in the future. We need to expect goodbyes from our fellow believers. We are simply nomads, travelers and wanderers following God’s call, wherever it may lead. When we say goodbye, we must also be joyful and thankful for the time that we were able to share together.
This doesn’t make grief unchristian. The Apostle Paul, as he was being taken to his execution in Rome, stopped at a number of Christian communities along the way. At the Church in Ephesus, Paul shares some final words with them and they collapse into prayer, and into weeping. The story says, “There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again” (Acts 20:37-38).
Tonight and tomorrow, be earnest with your goodbyes. Share one last moment of Christian fellowship, offering a hand or a hug or a Godly word that says, “In Christ’s Kingdom, I understand that disciples cannot stay together forever.”
And take this as a lesson for the really big goodbyes: saying good-bye as you move off to college, saying goodbye to a home or a school, saying goodbye to a dying loved one. Because right here and right now, people die. That’s what it means to be human. But this doesn’t mean that they are lost forever. They simply move from one part of God’s Kingdom to another.
Finally, remember that goodbye is a shortened version of “God be with you.” Goodbye is a blessing, a joyful phrase that speaks of God’s goodwill for us.
Question for reflection: What are some things or people that you don’t want to say goodbye to?