There is no universal way to say good bye to someone. Cultural, gender, familiarity and even seasons influence our good byes. We have some preparatory gestures to set the stage for departures. As a man I have hinted to my visiting guest that it was time to say goodbye by unbuttoning my pants and plopping down on the sofa. I have noticed women begin to re-tidy the kitchen suggesting she wants the house back in order and everyone should leave. Whether we enjoy the company of the person leaving or not we do try to make the act as polite as possible always suggesting we expect to see that person later.
When Jesus sat with His disciples and ate their last Passover meal together it was obvious to an observer that He was saying goodbye to them. Yet, they did not seem to pick up on it, or probably did not want to. He had dropped hints before that evening but his friends, family and followers seemed to ignore Him. They loved Him and wanted no part of His conversation that suggested He would be gone from their presence for a long time. He told them He would suffer and be murdered but it was difficult for them to accept, after all He was healthy, young and affected the lives of those who watched Him perform miracles or listened to Him speak. He was a good man who was funny, gifted and loved by many. But, because He choose to say goodbye to His earthly ministry that night, we never have to say goodbye to anyone without the possibility of seeing them again.
On Monday I gathered with others to remember the life of a believer who had succumbed to cancer. We sang songs, heard some great stories and were reminded that Bob was in heaven. Although we said goodbye to his earthly vessel, many present knew that separation was not permanent. Bob was a good man who was funny, gifted and loved by many. However Bob, like others gathered to say goodbye, believed they would meet again not because of who he was, but because of who He believed. Bob’s hope and belief rested in Jesus’ truths and promises and so believers saying goodbye knew they would see Bob again.
Earlier in the day, while looking at FACEBOOK, I had seen a notice about a colleague who had suddenly passed away on Sunday. I had last seen him in 1998 and although we had exchanged email and messages, we acted as if we would see each other soon. My friend was a good man who was funny, gifted and loved by many however I admit I do not know what he believed. A couple of times as I listened to stories of Bob’s faith, I could not help but think about my friend and what his farewell gathering would be like. I could not help but feel guilty of not taking my goodbyes seriously. I realized some people whom I’ve said goodbye to recently, I may never see again.
Are there people you know whose goodbye could be for all of eternity? Are there people you can love-on and be used by God as His messenger of truth? All of us can answer yes to both those questions and so we must do something to take away the sting of goodbye. Every goodbye doesn’t have to be offered as if it was going to be the last. Before followers of Christ we see God’s glory they are called to participate in the adoption processes helping people understand what God has in store for them as His children. Between the goodbyes we offer our friends, we can talk with God about how we can share His truth with those who do not know Him as Lord. We can make the effort to be the shoulder to cry on, the ear to listen, or even the hand to help up. We can ask to be a voice that shares His story.
Heavenly Father, we praise You for the joy of life, the emotional and physical experiences You grant us and the people You place around us. We know we have been given only a short time on this earth and are grateful for whatever time we have, however impress on us that You created us to be in eternal relationship with You and others. Help us share Your truth by our witness and our words so that our earthly goodbyes are truly only temporary events and that our friendships can last forever. We do need You to help us love others as You desire, with unselfish words and actions that may reveal Your heart to those we encounter. Thank you for our life and help us share its eternal purpose with all those we encounter. Amen