"How Love Says Goodbye and Hello"

Some of you may remember the rock group called “The Beatles” who made famous this notion of saying, “Hello, Goodbye” (1967). I am now thinking again about how LOVE has learned to speak in this language! Beginnings and endings are so important, especially in relationships.

It is, of course, customary for us to say GOODBYE for a variety of reasons on a daily basis. People say things like “See ya later!” “Talk to you soon!” “Have a great day!” “Take care!” and the simpler “Bye!” Sometimes, we don’t even use any words – just a nod of the head and a flick of the wrist is all that is necessary!

But when it comes to something more significant, SOMETHING LIFE-ALTERING, like the death of a loved one; the moving out of children into adult life; the sending off of a son or daughter or Dad to armed service deployment; the leaving of a long career; the moving away to a new community; the departure of a significant friend, dare I risk saying -- the leaving of a “Pastor,” – How does LOVE say goodbye in such circumstances?

As always – the only way anything meaningful is ever spoken is by courage, faith, and vulnerability! This is the spirit within which love speaks. Love also uses a certain approach to final goodbyes (and hellos). It is always spoken with GRATITUDE for the past and HOPE for the future! This is how love chooses to travel through life and among relationships that come and go with seasons. It’s been rightly and poignantly observed,
“The most painful goodbyes are the ones
that are never said and never explained.”

Bilal Nasir Khan
“True love” always risks the hard work of saying goodbye (and hello) in a healthy way. The trouble is, most of life’s meaningful goodbyes are incredibly difficult if not emotionally painful! When the Apostle Paul was preparing to leave his church friends at Ephesus, it was an incredible, heart-wrenching moment for all. This is how Luke describes the scene:

“When Paul had finished speaking, 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 (Acts 20:36-38; 21:1).
Paul and the Ephesian Christians had something special in each other that made their goodbyes HARD - but also - HOLY! I love how A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh (1924) puts it: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbyes so hard.” Goodbyes can be terribly difficult. But when they are, it means that we have been deeply and profoundly blessed!

When you “google” the idea of “Healthy Goodbyes,” all kinds of links to research and wisdom appear for us to plunder. I love the salient wisdom and insight of Dr. Jonah Green, who leads a Child and Family Mental Health Consortium. He has created a short list of suggestions for us at any juncture in life when we are getting ready to say “goodbye,” or as Porky Pig says (the header for his advice), “Eh Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-Th- “That's all Folks!”

1 – Avoid Avoidance. Don’t deny the importance of this moment for healthy closure.

2 – Acknowledge and process Emotions. Name your feelings and reflect on their source and bring them to God.

3 – Remember the Good. Name and claim how you were blessed by this person and what benefit you will retain after their departure.

4 – Learn from the Difficulties. Every human being at one point is difficult to live with or get along with. Taking a “lessons learned” approach and forgiveness releases you from bad history.

5 – Forgive the Bad. Forgive yourself and others for past mistakes that could have gone differently. Life is too short to live with regrets.

6 – Take Care of your Relationships. Attend to the needs of those in your life at these crucial moments. Engage in ways that say you care about them and this moment for all of you.

7 – Clarify Expectations for Communication. Where will this relationship go in the future? These are often unresolved question marks. What will our relationship be in the future? Can we call, write, swing by?
To be sure, that is one of the most important “healthy goodbyes” we could make. But when it comes to relationships, here are some ideas God puts before us Holding gratitude for the past, hope for the Future, celebrating the value added to our lives, remembering the blessings Imparted, and ascribing significant value to the meaning we have experienced.
In just a few months, Cara and I will be facing our fifth “goodbye” from a community and church family we have lived with and among. As we all process our many thoughts and feelings, let us be filled with the kind of joy, that is rugged, tenacious, grateful, unalterable, and unshakeable in our confidence that Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth, will guide and lead us all into the next chapter of our lives.

We (the Oak Harbor First United Methodist Church family) will also be saying HELLO to our new Pastor, Linda Tucker, and her husband John (the incoming pastor for Langley UMC).  As your current Pastor and spiritual leader (POTUS #29), I am commending and commanding you (just as Paul did to the Christians in the region of Galatia) to embrace Linda Tucker (POTUS #30) fully as your new (and next) God-appointed leader. Here is how true love says, “Hello!”  “You welcomed me [Paul] as an angel from God, as if I were Jesus Christ himself” (Galatians 4:14). If I have any authority in and over your lives from these past eight years, this is my one request:

“So if you consider me a partner, welcome her [Linda] as you would welcome me” (Philemon 1:17). This is how love says “Goodbye” and “Hello!” Pastors come and go. Only Jesus abides as our true leader!
“Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.”
Colossians 1:18 NLT
Pastor David 😊

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