Take a close look at the picture at the top of my blog. That’s the scene that I want you to picture. 40 high school youth (plus a few of us adults trying to hang on to our youthfulness) gathered on the beach of Lake Huron. It’s “beach day” of our Servant Event which always ends with sharing and singing. Emotions tend to run pretty deep. For years we would end our evening by pulling out Michael W. Smith’s “Friends.”
Packing up the dreams God planted, In the fertile soil of you, I can’t believe the hopes He’s granted, Means a chapter of your life is through
But we’ll keep you close as always, It won’t even seem you’ve gone, ‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways, Will keep the love that keeps us strong
Chorus: And friends are friends forever, If the Lord’s the Lord of them, And a friend will not say never, ‘Cause the welcome will not end, Though it’s hard to let you go, In the Father’s hands we know, That a lifetime’s not too long, To live as friends
And with the faith and love God’s given, Springing from the hope we know, We will pray the joy you live in, Is the strength that now you show
We’ll keep you close as always, It won’t even seem you’ve gone, ‘Cause our hearts in big and small ways, Will keep the love that keeps us strong (Chorus)
Though it’s hard to let you go, In the Father’s hands we know, That a lifetime’s not too long, To live as friends, No a lifetime’s not too long, To live as friends
The reason I bring this up is because right now I’m going through a bout of friendship grieving. I found out recently that one of my DCE buddies has accepted a call which will take her from Michigan all the way out to Colorado. We won’t get to carpool monthly to our DCE meeting, we won’t get to roof together on the Servant Event, our lively conversations about life and ministry will be missed.
Paul had a much more dire situation, and yet with a similar departure (minus any kissing), recorded in the book of Acts:
When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. (Acts 20:36-21:1 NIV)
It seems like life is filled with “goodbyes.” I still often miss my good friend Al. Al and I travelled on a lot of mission trips together, shared rooms, prayed together, and joked A LOT. I remember one bunk bed that we shared that was so rickety we had to prop it up with a drain pipe each night so it wouldn’t tip over. One year on the Servant Event Al was up on the roof with the rest of us, the next year cancer had ravaged his body so badly he could barely make it to the singing around the campfire at the Servant Event. A month after that the Lord took him home and we all sang “I’ll fly away” at his funeral.
Being in youth ministry I have to deal continually with goodbyes. Youth who I have the pleasure of working with for seven years graduate, then college takes them away and I don’t get to see them at all of the youth activities. Just because it happens every year doesn’t make it any easier.
My favorite passage in the Bible is Revelation chapters 21 & 22. Included in those chapters is this gem:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21: 3-5 NIV)
For now we have to entrust them to the Father’s hands. But then one day we will get to say “goodbye” to goodbyes.