“And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.” – Acts 20 : 22 – 26
i can think of a thousand ways in which breaks occur in human social groups. Death. Disagreement. Moving away. Sometimes, even when no event acts as catalyst, friendships just fade with time and waning commonality. i have lost friends in each of these manners, and each is its own particular brand of sadness. Sometimes we think we will see the other again soon, but we are unsure, so we mourn the loss of certainty. Sometimes we know we will see them, but it will never be the same again, so we mourn the change. Sometimes we know unequivocally that we will not, and we simply mourn the loss.
Though it is rare, there are also times when God calls us to break with others intentionally that His purposes may be accomplished. i know my natural reaction to this is to try to control these situations. i think, “If God loves unity, then i must do everything in my power to preserve that unity,” even if it means disobeying a call to move to another place, to branch out and do a new kind of mission, or to temporarily let go of unbelieving friends who i am not strong enough to be around because their influence on me is stronger than mine on them. All of these situations have occurred in my life, and two of them quite recently.
i still struggle with the vicious idols of power, control, and approval. i want desperately to hang onto friends that i encounter, even when i feel very strongly that God is calling me to let them go. i catch myself wondering what they will think of me when i am not around as much, wondering if i will be seen as a jerk, and wanting desperately to control whatever idea of “me” is propagated in the minds of acquaintances and friends. This is quite natural: friendship is a grace granted us by God to demonstrate just a portion of His love for us, and because it is often so sweet and so brutally rare when we are in concert with another we are hesitant to let this go. But if God called us just to relinquish the things we already hated, i doubt we would learn at all how to be in dependence on Him. As He did for Abraham, He often calls us to let go of what we hold most dear, not merely what we value only a little.
In fact, didn’t He first do the same for us? Letting go of His most excellent and beautiful and Only Son? God grant that we may be as willing to part with relationships we hold dear that we may draw closer to Him.
To that end, though certainly i risk gross sentimentality, i say this, and you know who you are: Goodbye friends. It was short, and sweet, and when God wills, we shall meet again.
And someday, the only thing we shall have to part with is parting itself.