INTRODUCTION. Considering the sadness and inevitability of “goodbye.”
We waved goodbye the same way we had always waved goodbye, with Mom standing under the small wooden plaque that hung above the gate of her picket fence, “To God be the glory.” She was smiling and waving as we drove slowly past, with our windows down, smiling and waving as we yelled, “We love you,” out the window. There was a familiar ache in my chest as this woman who had loved me for fifty-seven years disappeared from the rearview mirror, knowing that she would again be alone in her small home, just her and the Lord and her thoughts. But we would come back soon and again spend time together and then again poignantly and painfully wave goodbye. We would see her again.
But we didn’t. Five days later my brother called to tell me that Mom had died. She was suddenly gone, beyond the reach of another hello. That last goodbye waving out of the car window was THE last goodbye.
GOODBYE AS THE HUMAN CONDITION
This is the nature of the human condition. Every hello is paired with its corresponding goodbye. If there is a first meeting, there will be a final meeting. A relationship begun is a relationship that will end. My mom greeted me on August 2, 1959, as her second son, still umbilically tied, was placed on her stomach. She remembered that beginning of our relationship, even treasuring the memory of the details, but I, of course, could not remember that beginning. Then, more than fifty-seven years later, after loving me for my entire lifetime, on May 12, 2017, my mom’s earthly relationship with me ended. I remember the end of our relationship, but she, of course, could not.
The older I get, the more experience I have with goodbye. This, too, is part of the human condition, for goodbyes never stop. They keep coming until our death, and no amount of practice makes them any easier.
This morning we said goodbye to dear friends who had visited us for the weekend. We hugged each other several times, wanting to delay the inevitable departure. We saw in each other’s eyes a loving affection for one another created by our love for Jesus Christ and the anticipation of separating weighed on our hearts. Then finally, begrudgingly, with a mixture of joy and sadness, we said goodbye, hoping there would be a future hello.
NO CURE FOR GOODBYE
There is no cure for goodbye in this world. Goodbye is a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden and a consequence of the fall of man. In a fallen world, there is sin and separation and death. Until there is a cure for sin and death, there is no answer for goodbye. As long as man is helpless before sin and death, man is hopeless before the pain of goodbye.
But now, for the follower of Jesus Christ, the power of goodbye has been forever broken. The good news is that, when a person says hello to Jesus and confesses Him as Lord (Romans 10:9), there will never be a goodbye. No one can snatch the believer out of Jesus’ hand (John 10:28). Jesus has promised to be with His disciples to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20). God has promised to never leave His people, but rather to be with us forever (Joshua 1:5, 9; Hebrews 13:5). God is with us by His indwelling Holy Spirit from the moment of justification (Eph. 1:13; Col. 2:13) to the instant of our death, and at death we are at home with Him (2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23). So, with Jesus there is only hello. For His followers, King Jesus has conquered the kingdom of goodbye.
NOW GOODBYE IS ONLY TEMPORARY
But more than that, for believers in Jesus even our earthly “final goodbyes” are only temporary. We are not those who grieve like the rest who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We worship the God of the living (Matt. 22:32), and, through faith in Jesus, we have been made alive in Christ (Eph. 2:4; Col. 2:13). That means that even if we die physically, we will never die (John 11:25-26). So, while my mom’s physical death ended our earthly relationship and we will never again relate to one another as mother and son, in Christ we will forever relate to one another as worshipers of the Lord Jesus, together with a great multitude of worshipers which no one could count before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9). Death and all goodbyes will be no more (Rev. 21:4) and we will be with Christ forever and ever.
SDG rmb 6/6/2022 #539