No one knew, but I climbed in under the blanket on the side of the bed where Bob had taken his last breath and covered myself up so that the fabric of what had touched him last was touching me.
Certain goodbyes mark time forever, not because they ease the transition into the next thing, but because they feel like a perpetual film glitch.
Our word “goodbye” literally comes from “God be with you.” Other cultures have their own goodbye rituals. In Russia, they don’t clean the room where their guest stayed right away after their departure. In Turkey, after a gathering of family or friends, they throw a bucket of water on the road behind the guests’ car as they leave, symbolizing a river where the current escorts loved ones away on a smooth journey and back with a smooth return. After completing the study of the Torah, Jewish people recite a type of goodbye that says, “We will return to you,” because goodbye is never final in God’s story.
For most of us, saying goodbye seldom feels good, but when we put God into the picture … when we insert His inscrutable name into the goodbye and dare to believe … perspective changes. The truth is, Sin is the cause of all our goodbyes. It is the separator.
God hates sin because it separates Him from His Beloved. You and I know the intensity of that kind of separation. But God’s hate for sin and the separation it imparts, derails death. God’s solution is borne on the wings of compassion and conquers grief’s accompanying hopelessness. God knows what it feels like to be severed from His Loved One, and did the unthinkable to get us back and put us back together. “The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost” (luke 19:10 asv). No goodbye can separate us from the hope and promise of tomorrow.
Still, we ask “Why?” It is all still so unbearable, and our limited human nature leans into the microphone and asks the question, “If God is good … ?” We want someone to step up and give the explanation; as if an explanation would be enough. That’s why Jesus gives more-much more-than an answer, because a simple answer to life’s biggest “why” wouldn’t be enough. And, my friend, would it matter? Your loved one would not return even if you knew the answer. That’s why God gives more than an answer-because we need more than an answer! He gives much more than our questions ask for.
Jesus’s disciples asked the question too. They couldn’t accept or understand why He had to leave them; why He had to say goodbye. In John 16:7 (kjv), Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”
The painful act of our Savior’s goodbye turns out to be the very means by which Satan and death are thwarted forever. Now we live not only with the one true God beside us, but in us. This is the victory over “goodbye.”
God not only reweaves what Satan incompetently intended for evil into good, but evil’s attempts backfire, so that in God’s hands a glorious harvest emerges from what Satan had left for dead. Because Jesus said goodbye, even in the midst of life’s worst pain, we are empowered to live in the more. What a gift!
I slid out from under the blanket of the past; you will too. God will do more than heal your broken heart. Learn to live in the more. It is the good in your goodbye.