A few weeks ago, my friend Ashley and I were discussing the challenges of singleness vs. dating, and how the Gospel of Jesus applies to it all.
Ashley is dating a man in our church, and she said that one of the things she’s looking forward to someday is never having to say good-bye to him. When (if) they get married, he won’t have to walk her to her door and go back to his own home. They will be able to go to their home, and spend every evening, night, and morning together.
I’ve heard other couples say the same thing – that it gets harder to say good-bye, the longer you’re together. One of my roommates literally takes up to an hour to say good-bye to her boyfriend.
I poke fun at my roommate, but I remember when I was in Australia, and I felt like my whole life was full of nothing but good-byes for a year. I was participating in and later working at a study-abroad program for three semesters total. I had to say good-bye to about 30 students EVERY semester. I said good-byes to housemates and coworkers, to family and friends, to host parents and service coordinators. I lamented to my boss one time, “My life is one big good-bye!”
I poured all of myself into every student and every housemate, and my heart was broken over and over at every good-bye. At the time, I was convinced that the solution to my problem was a husband, because then at least I’d have one person I wouldn’t have to say good-bye to. I would cry out to Jesus, “Pleeeeeease, please, I want a husband. I just want someone who is not going to leave and break my heart!”
God was gracious to me, and I still have friends from that time that I wouldn’t dream of trading for an unbroken heart. But what I’ve realized since then is that good-byes never come to an end. Since 2006, I’ve moved to five states, watched all of my siblings and parents scatter to four states and two countries, and had friends move or pass away despite my wishes to the contrary. Just this week, I said good-bye to a church friend who moved to Africa.
And, if I’m super honest with myself, I realize that “never having to say good-bye” kind of overstates the situation, even for a husband. Of course I’ll have to say good-bye; even if we managed to be surgically attached and literally never were in separate rooms or spent the night apart from each other, death would still part us. It’s even written in most vows – “’Til death do we part” – to remind us that as long as we live, there will be more good-byes.
There is someone, though, that we’ll never have to say good-bye to: Jesus. Jesus knows how awful good-byes can be, and He suffered the worst one possible, so that I wouldn’t have to.
Because of my sin, I deserve the ultimate “Buh-bye” from God as He flicks my soul into eternal hell (Romans 6:23). But Jesus was like, “Oh, no you don’t, Pops!” and came down to earth to live in such a way that He was the only person ever to deserve to be united with God in heaven (I Peter 2:22).
Separated in part from God, He suffered all the earthly good-byes imaginable. He moved several times before he was even 10 years old, most scholars believe His earthly father passed away before Jesus did, He lived a “location independent” lifestyle, and He was deserted by his family and his disciples. Then as He hung on the cross that I deserved for my sins, He wailed as even God the Father left Him temporarily (Matt 27:46).
He did all that so that I would never know the pain of being separated from God – not in this mortal life, and not in the immortal next one (John 14:3). Because he chose to identify with my life of good-byes, I never have to identify with the good-bye in His death (Matthew 10:32).
Of course, Jesus did physically leave this earth when He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:9-11), and His disciples were pretty sad about it. But He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us in the meantime, so that we would never be bereft of God’s presence (John 14:26).
God promises to never “leave nor forsake” us – not now, not ever (Hebrews 13:5).
I would, of course, still like a husband just so I can see how long we can go without saying “Good-bye.” But I very much look forward to opening my eyes in heaven to see the Person who died for me say “Hello.”