The first time I boarded a plane for Italy, I left with one husband, 24 suitcases, a child on each hip, one holding her daddy’s hand and the absolute assurance God had called.
My parents and his parents lined up to say good-bye at the airport.
My dad wasn’t touchy-feely. He may have lacked in some of those skills. I discovered adults hugged when I married into my husband’s family.
It’s ok. I’m almost normal.
At the airport my dad wrapped me in his arms like he was drowning and I was his life preserver. I remember my face smashed against his coat. All I could see were his brown leather shoes dotted wet with tears like they’d stepped into rainfall. My mom pulled out her ever present white hanky and blew.
I turned from the bawling hiccups of my dad, scooped up my babies, and thought, “I can do this Lord, but I can’t do that. I can’t be on the other side of this line.”
For months in Italy, I woke in the morning, walked into my Italian bathroom with the see through door and green tile and opened my eyes to the mirror above the sink. My dad’s reflection wept back at me. And each day I bowed my head and cried. For months.
My momma heart is a little sore today. I’ve been on the other side of the line in many ways and for many years. We said good-bye one by one to our children as they stayed for college in the States, unsure when we would see them again, and climbed back into the planes that dropped us off again and again overseas.
Today my daughter, son-in-law and grandson say good-bye to their children and parents on this side. And I find as they go my heart is stuck to them like a piece of melted gum on a shoe.
“Good-byes never get easier,” an older missionary told me once. We sat at a round banquet table covered in a white tablecloth. It was in the old days of women’s church mission-society lunches. The hall was packed with missionaries, wanna-be missionaries, should-be missionaries, and get me out of here before God calls-me-to-be-a-missionary types.
I looked at her like she was crazy. First for saying what she did to someone about to leave family and country for the first traumatic time, and second for even thinking it. How could any good-bye be worse than the one I was about to make?
Any missionary with any amount of years on the field will tell you. That wrinkled seasoned servant of God knew what she was talking about.
Good-byes never get easier.
My momma heart feels like it will break today.
But I will be grateful for this pain because Jesus honors it.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15 NIV
I will thank God for my children who brave the good-byes to their own children because they want what God wants more than what they want.
I will thank God for their obedience and surrender, because it is a huge sacrifice.
I will thank God for a call so clear and compelling that their good-bye prayer is for “the courage to do what God has called us to do.”
I will thank God that there are still men and women of God who have the perspective that physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.
I will thank Jesus there is sorrow for all the good reasons, for relationships of tender love, for commitment, and faithfulness.
I will thank Jesus that He left all, came to this earth with the cross in His path, that He knew the love of an earthly father and had a grieving momma at the foot of His cross. I will thank Jesus for what He did and be humbled that nothing deterred Him from the Father’s will.
I will thank Jesus today on the other side of the line of good-bye.
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19:29 NIV
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