I was caught off guard by another goodbye today. Not a big one, maybe not even a permanent one, but a goodbye nonetheless. Internally I was reeling when I heard the news. It was a brief encounter, and not an appropriate time to express many emotions. After all, the person sharing the news was happy - at least on the outside - and their loss is greater than mine. I found something encouraging to say, "Sounds like a really good fit!" and expressed a small amount of sorrow, "(name) will be missed! I'm glad I get to say a quick goodbye". The words coming out of my mouth were true, but shallow.
As I walked away under a beautiful blue sky that suddenly seemed to sparkle a little less, my heart sank within my chest. There are so many goodbyes in life. I long for a land of no goodbyes.
Every goodbye seems to hit harder after having said the worst goodbye - the one at my beloved husband's graveside. My heart seems to be permanently bruised.
Even so, the pain of goodbyes is nothing new. Goodbyes have always been hard.
As infants, we cry when our mothers put us down, removing us from the warmth of their arms, the comfort of their familiar scent, and the rhythm of their beating heart. As toddlers we scream and flail, fighting against the caregivers who hold us back as our parents walk away to work, to the store, or even to another room. We long for connection, permanency and safety. Goodbyes, even temporary and familiar ones, rock us to our core.
As we grow older, we say so many more goodbyes. Goodbye to our toddler bed or a favorite shirt we outgrow. Goodbye to a pet that dies or a baby-sitter that moves away. We say goodbye to our preschool teacher and then each summer we say goodbye to a classroom, a teacher, and the unique blend of kids that made up a big portion of our waking hours for 9 months. This is just the beginning and barely preparation for the harder goodbyes yet to come.
We say goodbye to innocence and childlike wonder. Goodbye to first boyfriends or girlfriends and goodbye to the only home we've known. Some say goodbye to their parents' marriage and begin to navigate the difficult waters of divorce.
There is goodbye to high school and goodbye to college. Goodbye to adolescence, fast metabolisms and elasticity in our skin. Goodbye to late nights with roommates. Goodbye to carefree days.
Some say goodbye to the dream of marriage, others to the dream of having children. Some say goodbye to their health and watch disease or disability slowly steal the life they dreamed of. Others say goodbye to financial freedom as job loss, catastrophic events, or personal tragedy bankrupt them.
If we live long enough, we will eventually say goodbye to everyone who knew us when we were young, and everyone we looked up to. We will say goodbye to parents and siblings. And when we die, we will say goodbye to this life.
One thing is certain, we all say goodbye. Goodbye, after goodbye, after goodbye.
You might have been taught how to face your goodbyes, but most people I've known (myself included) were not. So we try to take them in stride. We minimize the sadness and look for a "silver lining" or we avoid them: walking away from people, situations, or dreams, before they can walk away from us.
The pain that all of these goodbyes leave in their wake reveals a longing for permanency that is deep within our souls. We weren't made for goodbyes. This continual leaving, breaking and shattering is not how things were meant to be.
We were created for a Land of No Goodbyes. It is the way God made things to be in the beginning, and it is the way that they will be again someday for those who trust in Christ.
When God lovingly spoke creation into existence, it was a land without goodbyes. We are told in the Bible's account of creation that God created everything good. There was perfect relationship between God and mankind, and between one person and another. Nothing would decay, spoil, or fade away. No one would have to say goodbye or feel the sting of loss. Relationships would not break and people would not die.
Then humanity rebelled against God and brokenness came into the world, along with disease, disharmony, and death. Relationships became marked by separation, isolation, and fracture. Intimacy with God was lost. Innocence was lost. Permanency and security were lost too and we began to say goodbyes.
We've been saying goodbyes ever since.
But one day, those of us who trust in Jesus won't ever have to say goodbye again. Jesus came to earth and said goodbye to his Heavenly Father. He was cut off from the perfect and eternal relationship that he had, so that we can have a relationship with God again. Jesus died but then rose back to life and defeated death - the worst and most final goodbye any of us ever has to say. And one day, he will come back and end goodbyes forever. He will come back to welcome us to the Land of No Goodbyes.
"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” - Revelation 21:3-4