A statement that marks an occasion. An acknowledgement that things will change from this time forward. Often replaced by a saying such as “see you later” to soften the inevitable.
A conversation with my preteen daughters revealed that they had a relatively long list of life transitions they counted consequential. I was skeptical.
Some young lives have undoubtedly endured more of the unfathomable and unthinkable, more chaos and havoc than I will in double, triple the amount of time. Yet, without being naïve concerning the world we inhabit, I can say with some level of honesty that my husband and I, our parenting philosophy have included protecting our children from life’s possible terrors. This does not make them immune or impervious to them. But we have tried to be intentional about guarding our boundaries from evil’s intent to steal, kill, and destroy their hearts for life and life abundantly (John 10:10). Thus, I questioned their long list.
They included significant moves that affected their rhythm of community life. Our family as a whole felt its impact. And each one of us experienced the reverberation of these changes uniquely. I sympathized.
My hesitancy grew as they recounted how every June, since preschool age, they left what was familiar and predictable to be introduced to a new set of norms and faces the following September only to repeat the cycle 9 months later. They also accounted for moving homes that preceded their conscious memory. Although these events did occur, they fell into the category of unavoidable and appropriate changes that reflect health human growth.
They persisted. Their unrelenting “but still” countered my mom logic. This continued for several rounds of arguments and rebuttals before I was won over.
Each change is a shift, a departure from what was. Each movement of leaving, however big or small entails a loss – a loss of the known, comfortable, meaningful. There’s a felt absence of influence and commitment. Some are more costly, weighty, risky, and significant than others especially if one’s heart has been opened to being known. It can be bitter, disorienting if the change was unanticipated and unprepared for, and painful. It can draw our hearts to deep heartache. And it can be the doorway to grief.
Grief, when entered with courage, grace, and wisdom, affords greater clarity and freedom.
One way we grieve is by reflecting on the impact of a person, a community. For example, what was it like to be a part of someone’s life and have someone to be a part of mine? What do I notice now that I’m apart from it? What do I reminisce about, miss or not miss? Where in my life do I feel the absence the greatest and where do I feel more full as a result of having spent time with this community?
Honest reflections will bear witness to both goodness and failures of both my own and others. This bind is part of the landscape of doing life together. Unless we have managed to do life on the periphery, close to exit doors, within set perimeters that guaranteed only pleasantries. But it’s a recipe for an absence of depth. For it’s nearly impossible to be in meaningful, connecting relationships without some degree of conflict, disappointment, frustration, and heartache.
Then reflections create an opportunity to bless.
We bless the people we leave. We bless earnestly for their well-being as they continue to participate in the kingdom of God to make the goodness of the gospel to bear in and through their life. We bless their work as if it were our own. That in all their doing, it would prosper “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). Because though we may not be an active, regular part of one other's life, we remain on the same team, championing the same vision, mission, and purpose.
This past June, our family said goodbye to a church community we were honored to call our family. While heartbroken, my daughter offered perspective. This loss being the second of its kind, she said if she had not left the first community, she would not have discovered the good that awaited her in the second community. So as she anticipates the new community she’ll join, she recalls the past to remind her to hope. And when the time comes do the hard work of leaving (God willing, not for a long while), she’ll leave more full than when she entered.