When he had finished speaking, he knelt and prayed with them. They all cried as they embraced and kissed him good-bye. They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship. (NLT)
Goodbyes can be very hard. Paul’s farewell to the leaders of the Ephesian church was tearful. It was a final farewell after all. In an earlier life, working in the airline industry, I witnessed many tearful farewells as our troops boarded an aircraft to fight in Vietnam. Some of those farewells would have been final.
Promises to keep in touch are no substitute for ongoing physical presence. Fond memories compensate to some degree, but memories are not presence. Little wonder so many tears are shed when it comes time to say goodbye.
And yet, we can’t avoid farewells. And despite the tears, they can be good for us. Some seasons have to end. Farewelling one job or one church or one neighbourhood can be at the same time a welcoming of a new opportunity. Life is never static but always fluid. Our God calls us on a pilgrim journey, not a comfy snooze in an easy chair.
So we will say quite a few farewells along the way, some of them final. Tears may be shed, but the sorrow need not be irretrievable. One door closes and another opens. It can even be that there can be no new opening without another closing. Clinging to one season, one place, one job or ministry, may mean missing out on a new thing God has in store for us. A taking hold may sometimes mean a corresponding letting go.
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