I have a slight case of xaireaphobia.
And you probably do too.
After all, it’s something that is difficult to avoid…although I often do my best.
I fear having to say goodbye.
Of course, I don’t just mean saying the word itself – something that is used before every workday and after every telephone call. These, like the goodbyes that we say to family at holidays and friends during summer break, I am perfectly fine with. In fact, they come with a hearty laugh and smile on my face.
No, I am referring to the true goodbyes – the ones both permanent and uncertain. These are the ones that I fear. It is a friend relocating to another country, a teacher taking a job in another state, or a student leaving home and going to college. These goodbyes bring with them the full weight of reality, and refocus our eyes on the most important thing in life: relationships.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise to you, that the harder it is to say goodbye, the more intimate the relationship is.
And this is why I implore you (and myself) – don’t make goodbyes easy.
Unfortunately, this is something that I tend to do more than I’d like to admit. Avoiding the sting means avoiding the relationship. After all, it becomes so easy to justify uninvolvement in church and community when we are located in an area short-term. Why form close friendships that will only last a year – even less? I begin to believe the lie that says relationships are not worth pain – that sadness should be avoided.
Jesus reminds us, however, that sadness is not to be avoided. Relationships – even temporary ones – are infinitely more valuable than our fragile emotions. Jesus came to this earth knowing that he would only live for 33 years. He ministered to people and formed deep friendships despite their earthly temporality – some of whom he knew would spend eternity separated from him.
We should not let our fear of goodbyes interfere with our love for people. We do not always know God’s will for our future, but we do know God’s will for our hearts. This is what we must follow.
Love others. Invest in them. Empty yourself for them. And if there comes a time when we must say goodbye, find joy in knowing that it will be hard.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8
We do not always know God’s will for our future, but we do know God’s will for our hearts.