Monday, April 18, 2011

The Never-ending Goodbyes of Life (From Joyce Rupp's, "Praying our Goodbyes")

Endings come; they always do.
Goodbye comes. It always does.

Trees struggle with it in autumn
and in our deepest being, so do we.

And as we begin our fallow vigil,

we recall the truth of the ages:

Unless the wheat seed dies,

it cannot sing a new birth.

Endings silence the soul,
yet not forever,
For the heart will one day,
sing once more.

Goodbyes are as much a part of life as the seasons of the year. The story of gain and loss, of joy and sorrow, of life and death, of union and separation, is inside each one of us. The cycle begins at birth, when we were broken loose from our mother’s womb. Our forward movement gathered momentum until we pushed farewell and, with a throbbing burst of new life, cried hello again to a vastly different world.

The cycle continues throughout our lives. Who of us has not said farewell to someone and felt a great heartache and a deep sadness, wanting to stop the process and wondering when the ache inside would ever leave?

Several years ago I accompanied a friend to the bus depot. She had been away for three years and was leaving again for a long time. The moment of separation came, that last little space when an onrush of sadness suddenly wells up and causes a great inadequacy of expression. She turned and hugged me. Then she looked at me with tears in her eyes and painfully remarked: “We’ve said goodbye so many times. Do you think that we will ever learn how?”

The word “goodbye”—originally “God-be-with-ye” or “Go-with-God”—was a recognition that God was a significant part of the “going”. When you dreaded or feared the journey there was strength in remembering that the One who gave and cherished life would be there to protect and to console.

“Goodbye” was a blessing of love, proclaiming the belief that if God went with you, you would never be alone, that comfort, strength and all the other blessings of a loving presence would accompany you. To the traveler it meant:

“We cannot keep you from this journey. We hurt deeply, for you have made a home in our hearts. Yet, we know your leaving is essential for your growth. So go; go with God. May you always rest in the assurance that ‘God will lead you, will be with you, will not fail you or desert you. Have no fear. Do not be disheartened by anything’ (Deut. 31:8).”

Do we ever get used to saying “goodbye”? Or should we? I think not. Saying goodbye helps us to experience the depths of our human condition. It leads us to a much deeper understanding of what it means to live life in its mystery and its wholeness. We ought not to be afraid of the partings that life asks of us. Nor ought we to hold back in giving ourselves fully to love, to the wonderful opportunities for growth, of investing ourselves in the many new persons we shall encounter along life's paths, and the many new events of which we shall be part.

We may be harshly bruised by life’s many farewells, but it is possible to be healed. We can become whole again. If we are willing to move inside the heart of the experience, to live patiently, through the process even as we acknowledge the difficult, painful emotions, that we can experience the wonder of spiritual growth and the marvel of new depths of faith in our relationship with God and others.

Amidst the silence of parting, we know, deep within, with that invincible knowledge we call faith, our hearts shall one day sing again.

“There is a season for everything,
a time for giving birth,

a time for dying;

a time for tears,

a time for laughter;

a time for mourning,

a time for dancing…”

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-4)

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)