So, needless to say, this is not a long-term relationship or someone I know well on a personal level. But he is a gifted minister, someone from whom I have drawn support and learned a great deal. And he appreciates open-ended questions as much as I do. All of this makes it a significant relationship on my end.
And now it is time to say goodbye.
I have always needed to be intentional about saying goodbye, about acknowledging transition and having closure in relationships. I remember at the end of the my sophomore year in college, tracking down friends on my last day on campus to say goodbye. I needed those goodbyes because it would be more than just a summer’s worth of time spent apart. I was going to be spending my entire junior year abroad and wouldn’t see them until our senior year – which at the time felt like an eternity.
I also remember how those friends wanted to avoid the goodbye part of my leaving, the uncomfortable feelings that go along with even temporary loss. Let’s just pretend - “I’ll see you soon,” they said. Because who wants to dwell on “I’ll miss you,” and “what if when I see you next you aren’t the person I remember?”
But I needed that acknowledgment. We were headed into a transition, a time apart, and I wanted them to know that I’d miss them, that I’d be thinking of them, that I’d look forward to seeing each other again, even if we had changed. And I wanted to know that they would miss me, too. So I forced the issue, and told them they had to say goodbye to me, see my tears and submit to my hug.
And I left feeling sad, but complete. We had acknowledged our transition and were moving into the future without pretending that it wouldn’t bring change.
It is easy these days to distract ourselves from saying goodbye, to let ourselves get swept up in the busyness and the “go, go, go” of our current culture. We avoid difficult feelings and vulnerability this way. And we lose the opportunity for intimacy and connection, with ourselves as much as with others.
I think our discomfort with transition and change is what holds us back from taking the time to say goodbye, taking the time to sit with the uncomfortable feelings of loss and separation, knowing that what is closing cannot be re-conjured again.
Saying goodbye also means acknowledging that we are moving into something new and unknown.
Whether it is a new minister at our church or moving to a new house or a new school, change is at hand and we cannot know what the future holds. We have to say goodbye, not only to the person or the place that holds a special place in our hearts, but also to who we were – in our old house, at our child’s former school, under the leadership of our former minister.
Transition is inevitable. Why are we so often afraid? Perhaps because we are practicing for the ultimate transition. There will come a day when we, each in our own way, will say goodbye to this world and the life that we have known.
Perhaps not today or perhaps not next week. Then again, perhaps so. Or perhaps in ten years, twenty or not for fifty more. We do not have much control over determining how many pages remain in our story, how many more legs of the journey we’ll get to participate in.
“You are older at this moment than you’ve ever been before, and it’s the youngest you’re ever going to get. The mortality rate is holding at a scandalous 100 percent.” - Tim Kreider,
NY Times Opinionator, Jan. 2013
It also infuses us with strength, awareness and authenticity.
If I am afraid of the dark and I close my eyes, it remains dark. If I am afraid of the dark and I keep my eyes open, my eyes will adjust to the lack of light, and I will be able to make out my surroundings. I will also be able to notice when and from where the light starts to return.
With my eyes closed, there is just darkness.
And so I am choosing eyes open. I will say goodbye and thank you to my current minister. I will acknowledge his gifts and what his ministry has meant to me. I will sit with the feelings of loss, and I will allow myself to feel sad. I will also invite gratitude and allow myself to wonder about possibilities for the new ministry that awaits.
I will walk into the future with my eyes open.
How about you?
What transition is on the horizon for you? How might you choose to move through it with eyes open?
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