How Do You Say Goodbye?

How do you say good-bye?

How do you say good-bye to a season of life that was so valuable and precious that it instigates both smiles and tears?

How do you say good-bye to a dear friend who is moving across the country?  To a loved one who has moved their residence from “earthly” to “eternal”?

How do you say good-bye to a child who is leaving for college?  Or the military?

How do you say good-bye?

It always seems as if the end of summer brings a season of bittersweet good-byes in our lives.  While the days are filled with glorious sunshine and gardens are bursting with a colorful harvest, it is in that contradictory moment that suitcases are being packed in preparation for new seasons and new challenges.

How do you say good-bye to a person whom you have loved more than life itself?  How do you say good-bye to a season of luscious growth and fruitful joy?

It has been my experience that the only way to say good-bye is to say it with hope.  Hope changes every good-bye into an experience not of finality but of expectation.

“And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:5

I’ll never forget the day that our oldest son, Matt, left for college.  You know, when boys leave for college they rarely turn around and wave good-bye.  Young men are so intent on all the independence that lies ahead that their determined faces are set like flint to the future and not to the past.

Matt’s Grand Cherokee was packed with everything that a college freshman could possibly need.  We had supplied him with new sheets, towels, a laundry basket, an iron (that would never be used) and a semester’s supply of snacks.  What you couldn’t see in his car was my heart that was packed into every nook and cranny.

I stood at the door that August morning and waved good-bye with his 4 younger siblings. Tears ran unabated down my cheeks … my body heaved with sobs. Our family would never feel whole to me again. 

Matt, his dad and that burgundy jeep drove away from the safety of the 4 acres of home.  I waved with visible grief … Matt didn’t look back.

I cried … he couldn’t wipe the grin off his 18 year old handsome face.

I remembered … he anticipated.

I learned in that moment that the healthiest way to say good-bye is with hope.  Since the day that Matthew had been placed in my inexperienced yet welcoming arms, I had hopes for his life.

I wanted him to change the world.

I wanted him to serve God … to be president … to be a doctor … to preach the Gospel.

I longed for him to walk in his God-ordained destiny and to make this world a better place.

I wanted him to travel and to fall in love with an amazing girl.

I hoped that he would be a leader of excellence and integrity.

I desired that he would know the joy of holding his own infant son in his arms and thereby understand me, his mom, in deep and magnificent ways.

I ached for him to trust God with all of life’s challenges and disturbances.

I yearned for his heart to be broken at least one time … so that he could be merciful and compassionate toward others.

And so, that bittersweet August morning, rather than wrap myself in emotional pain, I wrapped myself in the joy of hope.

How do you say good-bye?  You say good-bye with hope.

Hope is the human commodity that allows love to soar and grow.  If not for hope, relationships would grow stagnant with selfishness and paralysis.

If not for hope, yesterday would be more important than tomorrow.

Hope will never become the joyful reality that it was meant to be without a solid good-bye to all that has been.  “All that has been” was never meant to be what defined an individual’s life.  We are defined by hope.

Hope, by its very definition, turns one’s affection toward the future.  As believers, we are a people of hope and faith.  We set value on those things that are not yet seen.  And, joy of all joys, we serve the God of all hope!

“Now, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

One of the reasons that God has allowed the human experience to embrace the finality of torturous and heart-wrenching good-byes is so that we would not allow people or seasons to be to us what only God was meant to be.  He is the only One Who will never leave us or forsake us.  Children grow up and leave home … bodies wear out and enter eternity’s glory … friends come and go.  Jesus is always with us.  Always.  There is no good-bye that will ever be required in your relationship with Him.

Seasons of life change rapidly.  Life flies by with no apologies.  God, however, never changes.  His presence and character are the immutable, constants in a world of vicious and mocking instability.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” – Ephesians 1:18

I don’t know who or what you are saying good-bye to during this season of your life … but I can assure you that when “Good-bye!” is said hopefully … that you will encounter true peace and joyous thanksgiving.

“Good-bye” becomes “God-Speed!” when it is said with hope.

“Good-bye” becomes “God Bless You!” when it is said with hope.

“Good-bye” becomes “Thank You!” when it is said with hope.

Hope places an eternal “Hello!” in every good-bye.