Dear International Worker…Sad Goodbyes are Okay

Dear International Worker,

Sad goodbyes are okay. They can even be good. Not easy, but good.

If you’re saying goodbye for an extended period of time, and reciprocated love, sadness over separation, and tears are happening, you know you are blessed.

In the past week I’ve said goodbye many times. None of it was easy, but it was good.

Prayer and encouraging words from peers and mentors we respect. Meals with friends. Calls and visits with family. Farewells at school events and church programs. Giving and receiving gifts, hugs, and “I love you’s.”  Tears.

Reminders that we have community and home as much as they’re possible on earth.  Important elements for departing healthy and whole. Tethered. While we were together, these spiritual ties with loved ones bound us to the heart of God through mutual growth, love, and service. Over time, they’ve become a tightly woven community, launching us all into our next seasons of life– our friends at home and our family to a new country of service.

We’re absent from each other, but these relationships will continue. Because of them I’m ready to love and receive love again. I’ve been refined and sharpened. I’ve become a little more patient in listening and braver in saying what I need to say. I hope some of that happened for my friends as well.

Of course extended time in my home country and a plane ride to Asia haven’t made me perfect or completely ready for everything ahead. That’s impossible. Being conformed to the image of Christ is a process and last time I checked, I haven’t “arrived.”

But I’m ready for the next step, trusting God to work out His desires in me. Hopefully the overflow of that will be used in helping others know and follow Jesus more fully. I can’t single handedly change an entire culture, but I can depend on God’s strength to operate in Christ-centered, healthy ways in the relationships I build in Asia.

This is why I’m thankful for the sad goodbyes this week. The tears were genuine. The relationships I have are deep and real. The mutual change and encouragement God brought about in our lives is eternal.

What a wonderful way to leave!  What a wonderful way to arrive in Asia– with a full heart, knowing I’m so undeservingly loved by God and others.

If you’re still wondering how sad goodbyes could be such blessings, imagine the opposite of everything I’ve shared. Fake, tense smiles. Insincere sentiments. Obligatory words that cannot possibly mask your true thoughts of “Thank God I’m leaving.”

Bitter relief, knowing you’ll be separated by entire continents and oceans. Damaged relationships. Hurtful goodbyes.  Untethered.  Feeling alone, misunderstood, and rejected before heading into the world.   The kind of goodbye that guarantees you’ll need an extended time before you can even think about opening yourself up to God and other people again.

Sometimes it happens this way for international workers. You have no control over other’s actions and words. Goodbyes like this do not make your journey pointless or less important than others’ journeys. Just different. Bitter goodbyes may bring some challenges to starting life in your new country, but God is actively present. He is not helpless among our baggage and wreckage. He can bring community and healing in the most unlikely places, deeply blessing you and overflowing to those around you.

Jesus can bring meaning to all sorts of goodbyes. Don’t be afraid when your departure date draws near. Live with Him in the moment.

But if you get the opportunity for a sad goodbye because of how deeply you loved and were loved in return, remember it’s not easy, but it’s good.

©2017 Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved

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Pray with me today for international workers and their loved ones as they say goodbye– that it will go well. Whether it does or not, pray for them to rest in the grace God has lavished on them. Pray for God to communicate His love in meaningful, unique ways for families who’ve had difficult goodbyes.

 

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