Goodbyes as a Grace

Living in a university town means saying a lot of goodbyes.  I'm thinking about that particularly today because it was a goodbye Sunday at church as a couple prepares to move to Texas on Wednesday.  There were lots of prayers and tears and hugs and stories and laughter and some more tears, because they have loved well and are deeply loved.  While we rejoice at the way that God has opened the doors for them to move, we are deeply saddened at losing them.

Goodbyes are hard.  I hate the abruptness, how someone who was gradually woven into the pattern of my life is suddenly yanked out.  If it were up to me, I'd probably design the world to run so that everyone I loved would live in the couple of square miles around me, so that we wouldn't have to say goodbyes, wouldn't have to face that pain.

That sounds great, right?

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it would not be great.  At least not now, not as the world currently is.  Because what motivates me to make that wish is not the thought of their good or God's glory -- it's my own comfort.  This sentiment, that on the surface may seem beautiful and certainly harmless, is actually laced with an ugly selfishness.

In his book The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis devotes several pages of his chapter on "Affection" to ways that love can warp and twist, and how difficult it is to love well.  He writes
"...the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift... Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love.  It must work towards its own abdication.  We must aim at making ourselves superfluous... But the instinct, simply in its own nature, has no power to fulfil this law.  The instinct desires the good of its object, but not simply; only the good it can itself give.  A much higher love -- a love which desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes -- must step in and help or tame the instinct before it can make the abdication... Love, having become a god, becomes a demon."
And so, despite the heartache that comes along with loving and building strong relationships and then saying goodbye, I am striving to be actively thankful that God brings a lot of goodbyes into my life.  I need that, for Him to constantly pry my hands open, to unclench my fingers from the idols of my own comfort and convenience.  I need to be constantly reminded that He is the only constant, and that finding my joy in the gifts more than in the Giver will never ultimately satisfy.

Praise God for His severe mercies.


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