MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, January 15th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Each of us must face goodbyes in life. But look beyond that and regain your footing, says WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney.
JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: I envy grandparents who get to visit their grandkids more than twice a year. My offspring live on opposite sides of the USA. Better than opposite sides of the globe, but getting all of us together in the same place demands the logistics of a summit meeting.
Still, my only complaint about the grandma gig comes when it’s time to say goodbye.
“Goodbye” is said to be one of the saddest words in the English language.
One of the longest goodbyes ever recorded is John chapters 14 through 17. Jesus didn’t say the word, but “I go” hangs like a gray cloud over the entire passage: “I am going,” “I am leaving,” “a little while and you will see me no more.”
Even if his disciples had understood what he meant, it would have seemed so wrong. “Don’t you love us, Jesus? Why won’t you stay with us?” In the same way it seems not merely sad, but wrong, to part from the grandchild who just planted a wet kiss on your cheek. We were made for relationship, but every hello will end with a goodbye. Is this the way it’s supposed to be?
“It is to your advantage that I go away,” Jesus said, “for if I do not, the Helper—that is, the Holy Spirit—will not come to you.” His closest disciples didn’t understand, and we may not either, at first.
But what about this: The work of Christ means nothing to us until the Spirit breathes it into our hearts. The love of the Father doesn’t penetrate until the Spirit opens up the eternal Trinitarian bond and pulls us inside. That’s why Jesus can say “Abide in me,” even while going away. He does not dismiss the pain of Goodbye, but he redeems it. “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.”
That applies not just to the bittersweet farewells at a good old age, but also to the weighted ones, when sorrow is pierced by regret. A 50-year-old friend dying of cancer knows she will meet the Lord but still longs to see her grandchildren grow up. Why so soon? A father lamenting his son’s suicide tortures himself over what he could have said—why so hasty? A daughter caring for her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother feels guilty for wondering, why so long?
“Let not your hearts be troubled.” Fraught farewells are never the end, much less the temporary ones at the airport departure lane. Jesus kicked out the back wall of Goodbye and cleared a path to a better Hello.
For WORLD Radio, I’m Janie B. Cheaney.