"From Miletus he sent to Ephesus for the leaders of the congregation. When they arrived, he said, "You know that from day one of my arrival in Asia I was with you totally—laying my life on the line, serving the Master no matter what, putting up with no end of scheming by Jews who wanted to do me in. I didn't skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got. I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus. "But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I'm completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won't be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God. "And so this is good-bye. You're not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God's inaugurated kingdom. I've done my best for you, given you my all, held back nothing of God's will for you. "Now it's up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God's people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for. "I know that as soon as I'm gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. So stay awake and keep up your guard. Remember those three years I kept at it with you, never letting up, pouring my heart out with you, one after another.
"Now I'm turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends. "I've never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. In everything I've done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You'll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, 'You're far happier giving than getting.'" Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again—he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship."
There is never an easy way to say good-bye. It hurts the one leaving and it hurts the ones left behind. However it is a part of life and something that we must experience time and time again with people that we love and know. When my husband and I were first married we were stationed in Puerto Rico with the military. He went ahead of me by about a month. I remember standing at the airport watching him go and feeling like my heart was going to break in my chest. We have had to say good-bye a thousand more times since then and really it never gets any easier. A few weeks later as it was my turn to get on the plane, my family and my friends came to see me off. My father was heartbroken. I remember the tears that fell that day and as much as I loved them and didn't want to hurt them I was equally excited and ready to join my new husband. It was a time of chaos in my emotions. I was setting off on a new adventure but I was leaving everything I ever knew behind.
It seems every stage there are good-byes. When it was time to come back to the states after our two years there the same thing happens. We had built a life there. We had friends that we were leaving behind. I felt the same emotional chaos. One side ready to go home and be with my family and the other part saddened by saying good-bye to the life we had. We have moved state to state a few times over the years since we have said good-bye to family and friends numerous times. It never gets easier.
When we moved here to NC from FL 5 years ago, in my mind I knew that I may never see my grandparents again. I knew that it was a great possibility. I have talked of Pappy recently and in the course of the next year he did go home to be with the Lord. But I had time to prepare, there was nothing left unsaid. I had talked to him mere hours before he died. I was able to grieve. On the long trip back to FL my husband kept my spirits up and he listened to hours of stories. I remember being in his hospital room alone and saying to him, "I release you, I am okay, I know that you have taken care of me for years. I love you, and I always have. If this is your time and you are ready to go, I just want you to know that I will be alright." The next day he was gone.
After the death of Saul and Jonathan the word in 2 Samuel 2:1, "In the course of time, David inquired of the LORD.", in the course of time. It is said that time can heal all wounds. I don't know that to be true but I know that time gives us the ability to work through the course of emotions and then we can call upon the Lord to heal us. We all know the Ecclesiastes 3 reference to time. There is a time for everything. Time does seem to take away the sting but it doesn't take away the memories. Five years later I still remember my Pappy's face, I still remember the smell of his Listerine, I can still see him in his PJ's with a highlighter marking the TV Guide. There are some things we never have to say good-bye to.
So as we say good-bye to 2007, as we look forward to the future with great anticipation, as we love the necks of the ones we love, as we gather for the holidays. Let us not take one moment for granted. Let us love naively, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. 2007 far exceeded my expectations, I don't even want to limit God for 2008. I thank God for all of you. I pray that your life will continue to bring growth and a closeness with the Lord.
Lord, I love you. I thank you for the teaching on good-byes. I know that you are preparing me for something and as I read this lesson this morning I was wondering what your plans are. You have never had me say good-bye to something without replacing it with something even more grand and for today I choose to accept whatever is on the horizon. Father God you are precious to me, to my children, to my family. Lord, you are all knowing, all purposeful, alway righteous. I thank you for your provision and your blessing. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen.