What’s Good About Good-bye? 

From the back seat window the countryside slid by. Green grape vines draped across wooden stakes like outstretched arms. The road ahead curved to the left, I knew it well. A hen, halted mid-stride before crossing into our path, her wings flapped, her jerky movements paused, and she clucked a warning in Italian.

Everything was so familiar yet all of it so strange. Kansas and Italy, like dividing soul and spirit, overlapped in a body tired with jet lag and a heart full of the melancholy of good-byes.

Missionary double-life of here-there, come-go melded and collided. Sink hole chunks of life disappeared in home assignments, months of vagabond existence, connecting, but not quite. Overseas life felt non-relatable and vague, unreal to our closest friends in our home country. A gap widened with each year away. We came back to them from somewhere else and long ago, and life had changed for everyone. Origins and identity invaded one another and formed a mass of confused ventricles, like crossed arteries leading to the heart.

Is there any good in good-bye? I wondered. 

When my husband and I said good-bye to my parents the very first time in 1982 to board a plane for Italy, it was the culmination of dreams and hard work. We wanted to be global workers for the sake of Christ. Excitement filled us, but good-bye’s weighed heavy in our stomachs.

Then at the airport as both sides of parents stood in a last-hug line, my head down, crushed in embrace, I saw the speckled shoes of my mom. Tear dots wetted her black shoes.

I can do this because I am taking all that is most precious with me, I thought, my peripheral vision focused on my husband and a line of little feet. My parents said good-bye. I pulled my children’s arms from grandparent’s necks, gathered my little chicks and walked away into another life.

Until the day came that I boarded to go back to the other world while adult children stayed in the States. One by one they remained. Where once I left with children in my arms, I now went away empty.

Did Hannah feel that way when she left Samuel with the priest Eli? Did her heart live in two places?

 “… as long as he lives he shall be lent to the Lord.’ So they worshiped the Lord there.” 1 Sam. 1:28; NKJV.

Were the tears she shed at Shiloh because she couldn’t have a child renewed each year when she said good-bye to the son she’d prayed for? Was her life measured in chunks of time, in-betweens of “with” and “away from”?

Missionary service, life on two sides of the ocean wracked havoc with tired emotions. We came and went. Its ripping away seemed routine and expected to our friends and churches. But never to us. The good-byes didn’t became easier, only more difficult.

Was this also the way Hannah said her good-byes to Samuel? Did her heart break a little more each time?

I am so inspired by this woman of courage. I am amazed at her commitment to her God above even the deep heart cords to her son.

Because when we give our children to God, any “if”, “and” or “buts” are no more than an idols. 

Like Isaac on the altar, God must have preeminence even when it hurts. He must be God alone. Hannah offered the treasure of her heart regardless of her dreams, despite logic, notwithstanding the pain.

“Because I have asked for him from the Lord… I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there (in Shiloh) forever.” 1 Sam. 20-22; NKJV.

After finally having a child after such woe and desire what sense was there to leave him with Eli the priest, a man who failed with his own children? I confess, it’s hard to understand.

But, the point is she didn’t give him to Samuel. She gave him to the Lord. 

She only did what God requires of each of us.

Children are not ours to keep close for our own sakes, to fulfill our own needs.

I like her devotion. But even more, I like what she did after that.

She moved her grief to worship.

 “…  So they worshiped the Lord there.” 1 Sam. 1:28; NKJV.

Tomorrow I say good-bye. I’m digging deep for the good. My oldest daughter, my son-in-law and grandkids will board the plane to go back to where God has asked them to be. My daughter-mommy will also hurt because her young adult daughter will stay behind, an ocean apart.

A picture book of memories, missionary good-byes throughout the years, thumb through my mind. A prick stabs my stomach, the separation like a ticking clock beats in my heart and I feel anguish in peeling apart.

When good-bye means our children follow the path of Jesus, who are we to stand in the way?  What greater joy than that our children walk in truth? It is a beautiful but costly paradox of loving Jesus.

I will cry and I will grieve, and my shoes will be spotted with tears. But on the drive home I will practice the good in good-bye because He is worthy.

I will worship.