Saying goodbye isn’t something I often think about. I use it in parting from friends and family, with the frame of mind that I’d see them again shortly. Or as a means of leaving a formal situation where we part ways amicably.

When it means you might not see them for a really long time–if ever, this side of heaven–it becomes a little more serious. There are things that should be said, attitudes that might need to be addressed, conflicts, big or small, that might need to be resolved.

Addressing how well we love others can feel awkward. We live in a transient culture, where people are moving constantly, where relationships over social media may feel less connected and serious, where people would rather interact with a video game than a breathing individual. When solid relationships happen, it’s an incredible gift that adds richness to our lives.

We just completed our year-end-retreat. People who’d done life together differently for ten months, living in community, learning to care for and rely on each other–leaving was tougher than folks figured.

Our final celebration included a Tacky Prom, where people wore, well, tacky stuff. Counterintuitive to what many would consider appropriate for a nice dinner and an appreciation time for people moving into new paths of pursuit. Somehow it fits. Such an approach leads to lightness and enjoyment, not the sadness of departure.

We had a dance party for six decades of people, beginning with littles just learning to walk. A few were really gifted dancers; many were extremely enthusiastic. We all laughed, a sweet flow of comfort that reflected our closeness.

Was anyone ready to say goodbye?

Some were. Their next place called to them with hope and energy. Others were tired, ready to begin again, to really settle into a longer routine, putting down roots wherever they’d be.

But all have been impacted by these relationships.

I’m going to miss them. All. Some challenged me. Some touched my heart so deeply that leaving them was painful. Some made me smile just thinking about them.

All have helped make me a better person.

It’s how God wants us to be. Working together, using our differences to make each other stronger. Encouraging us even in the tensions between us, to grow in understanding and develop compassion for one another. Believing the best and not immediately jumping to a defensive demeanor.

Unity. Togetherness. Safe people to talk to, folks who will listen to what we have to say without condemnation, even if they don’t condone our actions. People we know who have our backs, no matter how we show up.

Such relationships are the hope of most people. Being known, valued, loved.

There are those people out there. People who will commit to relationship because they see value in it.

But even those folks will let us down, disappoint, and hurt us.

God won’t. His commitment to us when we’re His is unconditional love and grace that we can’t–won’t–earn.

When we find friends who go all in with us, we need to hang on and appreciate the gift they are to us. They reflect the true love of God.

Real friends? It means never really saying goodbye.

Eternity awaits.

 

 

 

 

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