“I just love saying goodbye to friends!” Said no one. Goodbyes are heart-wrenchingly tough.
Having just celebrated five years as a full-time staff here at YWAM Townsville, Australia – one of the questions I’m asked increasingly more is:
“How do you deal with people leaving all the time?” YWAM is a global missions movement – a lot of our initiatives are short term and so it results in a lot of hello and goodbyes! Sometimes you might say goodbye to people after a few weeks, 6 months if it’s a DTS, others after a couple of years. These are all hard, but nothing rocks your world more than when a really good friend leaves after many, many years. The kind of friend you just do life with and the kind of friend you run to when everybody else is leaving.
Especially at Christmas and being away from family it’s easy to reflect on who is here and who is gone. In some ways I still don’t think I’ve been here long enough to do justice to this question – but here is my five-year perspective: You know that when you say goodbye to that really good friend, you’re saying goodbye to a way of life and a unique way of feeling understood. And then there comes a weight of heartache that doesn’t get better in the usual couple of weeks which can well up at any time unannounced. In this season there is definitely a sense of loss and it can bring up questions like:
“who can I let my guard down around now?” “And if I do, will they understand me?” That’s a risk. And the questions keep going, “who can I laugh with, without restraint?”
Of course we know that when we feel uncertain there’s no better place to turn than to God’s word, where we are reassured that He is with us through every season and especially at Christmas we are reminded that He is God Emmanuel, who came to be among us. He is the God of all comfort and has a solution for every season we walk through. This truth helps us embrace the pain as temporary and cling to what is lasting which is the blessing that so many people deposit into our lives. And although Christmas can remind us of those who friends who have left, it can also remind us of their investment and what they have left with us.
Exactly two years ago, one such friend, as an act of incredible generosity, gave me her car when she left Australia. Now I drive it around and although yes it was a life-changer of a gift – what I treasure the most about it are the memories of her associated with it. We did so many drives together in that car- exploring the Australian bush, garage sale hunting, airport pickups, late night adventures, Christmas shopping. She might be gone, but every time I get into that car I smile because she was such a joy in my life and continues to be even if it’s from a distance now. The answer is never about becoming hard-hearted – God cares about our hearts more than anything. However, we do need to develop resilience as we face hard times and those two things aren’t to be confused. Resilience leads to freedom, capacity and a new kind of joy. It allows us to draw close to God in the times of pain, God Emmanuel came to be with us through the pain and to help refocus our gaze.
Christmas is an incredible bookmark of time which gives us an opportunity to pause and be thankful. Thankful for who we currently have around us and thankful for those who once touched our lives every day but now influence so many more lives than just our own. The more we draw close to Him this Christmas, the more we will find that our hands remain trusting and open to our next “hello.”
Lucy is one of our favourite Brits from a small English village in the Wiltshire countryside. She is on staff with YWAM Townsville and enjoys tea (of course), boxing, pizza and is passionate about empowering people to live their best life!