The Coming and the Going

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For my friend who is a friend above all friends. I love you so.

For so long I was a person of permanence. Read, I was terrified of change. In fact, I loathed it. Change is uncomfortable. Change is scary. Change involves letting go of something I love.

But college has its way of forcing you to grow, of shattering the paradigms in which you once lived. Every semester is radically different from the next. You never know who you will find you have become as the semester closes. And you never know who will come into or go out of your life.

Change is such a funny thing. I chuckle at myself as I write this because last year was such a learning curve for me. Of course I’ve had people come and go before in my life. In fact, I’d even willingly left relationships myself. But for some reason it was harder for me to let go this time around.

Because letting go meant that I failed, that I didn’t try hard enough or do enough. Failing meant that I wasn’t enough. Because why would someone push me away unless I wasn’t worth fighting for?

But here’s the deal. We’re broken people. And broken people do broken things. Really crappy broken things, like break your heart, or choose to find another best friend, or back away without giving you any reason. And once we can come to terms with the fact that we’re broken, the fact that we do hurtful things as well, I think, with the help of Jesus, we can learn to hold onto people a little more loosely and instead cling tightly to Jesus.

I can’t help thinking about all the times in the Bible that Jesus was abandoned. People walked away from him all the time. He hard some hard truths he was trying to teach people. And for many, it was too much. Jesus was too much. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” John 6:60. And the crazy part to me is that Jesus let them walk away. He let his disciples, his students, his close companions, leave. And that’s something I don’t think I could do. We’re all taught that we’re supposed to stick it out: friendships, relationships, through thick and thin. But when the going got tough, many walked away from the Savior of the World. Not just some guy rambling. God incarnate. And they just walked away.

And Jesus knew beforehand it was going to happen, and he just let them go. See, I’m the type of person who can’t stand not being liked, and if not liked at least appreciated. If I get wind of someone’s frustration or annoyance with me, do I give them space and stay my distance? Oh, no. I bull out all the stops and whistles. I do all the right things, I get low and I serve, I compliment, it’s a miracle I don’t break into song and dance belting Please don’t leave me, I’ll do anything. Just love me, love me, say that I’m worth it.

And Jesus let them walk away. Even when his closest friends betrayed and denied him as he was led to his death, He STILL gave them grace. He knew it was going to happen before the words left his disciples mouths.

I think that’s what I’m learning about life and relationships. People are only in our lives for seasons. People come and go. And it’s not something we should fear or be cynical about. Not letting people in only leaves us in a terribly isolated place. But instead there’s this balance. This razor-thin line of welcoming people in and graciously letting them go. It’s not easy. It’s quite painful, actually. But it doesn’t mean we failed. It doesn’t mean we failed.

It just means we have to stare at Jesus. When many of Jesus’s disciples walked away, He turned to the twelve and asked, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69).

Really great people are going to leave their mark on our lives. But the truth is the marks aren’t ever really appreciated in their full measure until that great person is no longer there, at least until they’re not living with us in the grimy day to day moments. Lord Tennyson once wrote in a poem that “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,” and although you all are totally judging me for using such a cliche quote, you know it’s kind of true. If we keep our hearts locked up tight until we die, in order to spare ourselves some pain, we’re going to die painfully alone, which is probably large population of the world’s biggest nightmare. So we have to open up. We have to let people in, knowing full well that those certain people might not always be there. Every once in a blue moon, we find a person who remains a forever friend, but we’re not eternal and life has its ways of creating distance even between us and those we love most.

But in order to live, in order to experience any rich life at all, we have to be willing to feel. We have to be willing to love. And we have to be willing to let go when it’s time to walk away. Sometimes the fight just makes things messier. And even though it’s never, let me repeat, never easy to let a relationship fizzle out or to part ways with someone we once help so dear, as a follower of Christ, we’re left with a promise even when we feel we’ve been left alone. And the promise is this: we’re not alone. This is not our forever. Yes, while on this earth we will mourn loss over and over again, Psalm 90:5 says that life is like a dream that is gone when we wake up. It’s so fleeting, and yes we should deeply enjoy it, but eternity will make this time feel like a funny dream, where we laughed and cried and wore funny clothes, but a fleeting dream none the less.

The brokenness of this earth is not forever. And there is a Savior who is coming back for us. His coming back to fight and rescue on our behalf. And even sweeter than that is the truth that he already has promised that he will not leave us, even while we live life here on earth.

So yes, it’s hard. It’s freaking painful and terrible for things to change. For relationships to change. It’s even scary to realize that we ourselves have changed. But God is a god of comfort. He does not leave us or forsake us. And he uses all things for his glory and our good. And that often times looks nothing like what we had planned. But it’s a much, much sweeter reward letting him have the glory, letting him lead the way, instead of clawing for control. It’s sweeter to rest in his arms and smile through the tears and watch things change, watch people walk away, because even when we can’t see it and even when we don’t understand, we can trust that he’s good. Sure, he’s not safe, but, man, he is good.

I can’t make it through life without other people. None of us can. It’s a gift to experience the love of others because when it’s pure, when it’s true, and yes, even when it’s hard, it always points us back to Jesus. We just have to be brave and stare at Him. May we become people whose hearts are gracious and arms are only holding loosely as people both enter our lives and as they leave.

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