We have been crafted to enjoy relationships. Delight is found in conversation over coffee or over the table, warm laughter, or even a movie sharing. We feel immense health even in pain when in the presence of a friend or family. Most strive for relationally fulfillment in the queen of relationships: marriage. Experiencing life together is a great pleasure given to us by our relational God. Experience sharing, life sharing, is soul weaving.
Which is why goodbyes are so painful. When people are knit together through companionship as friends or through blood as family, saying goodbye hurts. The tearing of this relational thread is painful, even if it's only temporary. Going to college very far from home has provided me ample opportunities to say goodbye. The tight knot in the throat, the hot tears, and the last hugs are familiar. I've had to say goodbye to friends, and family. Some, for a long time. In these years away from home goodbye has been consistently present. Death has brought goodbye. Job transfers have brought goodbye. Life has brought goodbye.
"And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship." (Acts 20:36-38).Some Christians see emotions as a bother. Especially the "negative" ones like sadness, and depression. If someone is depressed they can't be right with God, because someone right with God wouldn't experience sorrow or depression. It is sin. Christians are to be happy, even when being broken under pain. The heart must be put in its place, regulated by the mind. This artificial, heavy burden, is foreign to the Scriptures. Humans aren't a unity of conflicting parts. We aren't a thinking part and a feeling part. We are a mysterious whole. At times, we think a certain way because of how we feel, and we feel a certain way because of how we think. Right spirituality doesn't demand an all the time emotional high.
Acts 20:36-21:16 records Paul's journey to Jerusalem. It was a sad tripped, filled with many goodbyes. Here, we have a precious picture of Paul and the Ephesians elders' raw humanity. "There was much weeping," records Luke. The elders "embraced Paul and kissed him." They would not see Paul again, and knowing that pained them deeply. Relishing those last moments together is fitting. Like us, when we say goodbye, "they accompanied him," taking in every last second together.
Later, Luke would record another goodbye with another group of disciples:
Here, again, we see the grieving of close friends having to face goodbye. Families accompanied Luke and Paul to the ship. Together, they prayed, then said goodbye." When the intertwining of lives ends, it is right to grieve. Sorrow is a good response to goodbye. This "negative" emotion is not only appropriate, but is encouraged. "For everything there is a season," said Solomon, "a time to weep...a time to mourn." (Ecc. 3:1, 4)
"When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home." (Acts 21:5-6)
God, Our Constant
In the midst of our life torrent, the raging storm, we have one constant: God. God, as the kind parent, seeks our good. He cares for us like none can. He is faithful. He promises us a constant, perfect compassion and unmatched tender affection.
God is by His nature, faithful. His character is described as faithful (Is. 49:7). His faithfulness is great (Lam. 3:23). It is distinctly His, none other compares (Ps. 89:8). His love and faithfulness are twined together. Amazingly, His faithful love is infinite. There is no end:“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you." (Isaiah 49:15-16)
"Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds." (Psalm 36:6)In the joy of friendship, God is there. In the stability of family, God is there. In the sorrow of goodbye, God is there. We can, and should feel pain at separation with those we care about. In our pain, God is faithful. He is our constant. He will never leave us. He will never forget about us. He is our strength. When goodbye rips your soul, cling tightly to God. He will never fail you. He will never let you go.