Remember the farewell song from The Sound of Music? The irony of the lyrics leaves me with mixed emotions every time I hear it.
In real life, I feel the same way about saying good-bye. How about you?
I think it all began when, as a college freshman, I watched my parents drive away to return home some 800 miles away. Determined, I smiled and waved, but my tears gave me away. Truth be told, I felt half sick. What had I been thinking? Christmas vacation seemed to be light years into the future.
In the late '90s my sister and her family left for missionary work in Africa--before the age of cell-phone towers in the African bush. In 2001 our first-born decided to attend college in Arizona. As the city of Phoenix grew smaller from the plane window, my heart literally ached. And now, I'm on the verge of that final hug as I leave my youngest at her college campus, only to return home to an empty house.
Life has its comings and goings.
Love has a price tag, but really, what's the alternative? Even though I sometimes find my cheeks wet with tears, I'm grateful for these relationships, I pray for each one, confident in God's continued work in all our lives.
This past week, my small group said farewell to our leader and mentor, who is moving to another state. It wasn't easy to say good-bye to the one who had encouraged us in God's Word, met with us individually outside of our weekly meeting time, and spoke truth into our lives, all with grace and good humor. Together, we had walked through heartache and joy, defeat and victory, disappointment and blessing.
In my living room, over lemon cake and coffee, our group shared stories and counted answers to prayer. We read Acts 20, the account of the apostle Paul's farewell to the people of Ephesus. I was struck with the similarities of this ancient story and Kim's ministry: "You yourselves know how I lived among you . . . serving the Lord with all humility . . . how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable and teaching you in public and from house to house . . . And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified."
"And when [Paul] 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. And they accompanied him to the ship."
Can you picture it?
Similarly, our little group prayed around Kim, committing her to God's keeping. Sorrowful? Oh, yes. Yet, we celebrated God's direction, His promises, and His good work in all of us.
I don't think farewells will become easier in this life. I'll still shed tears when I give my sweet girl that last hug tomorrow. But we can both be confident of this: "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6).