Acts 20:25 ‘Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.’
We can almost see the tears and feel the pain of Paul and those of his team as they are hearing his words of departure.
I don’t like goodbyes, do you?
I see a lot of them at the airports. Children and parents, friends and lovers, they are proud moments, romantic moments and also very sad times. The departure lounge and the arrival lounge are often the opposites of human response.
Yesterday the UK and the world were commemorating the death of Princess Diana over 20 years ago. In the many programmes we have watched over these last several days the ones containing her sons were most poignant as they described on their last phone call to their mum how they had rushed the phone call, not realising it would be their last. How so many of us have not realised it was our last conversation with a loved one. So many struggle with regret over what they could have said or should have said but they didn’t know, or there was a stupid division perhaps in the relationship and the line from the song ‘Living years’ echoes in the recesses of our mind: “I just wish I could have told him in the living years” (Mike and the Mechanics 1988).
Today I am waking in the home of a married couple. They are my friends, one of several intercessors who pray for me and support my cause. Around 6-7 weeks ago the wife had a severe heart attack which resulted in a quadruple bypass. Prior to the surgery I drove away from the hospital with tears in my eyes having said goodbye. We have all known those difficult times. Thankfully all went well.
6 months ago I said goodbye to my friend and colleague of many years who died serving God, it was a new pain for me. I said goodbye and my hope was crushed here on earth, but not in eternity. I am sure many reading this know what I mean when in those situations.
Goodbyes. I don’t like them. But they have always been here and always will be.
Paul is saying goodbye and he is entrusting his team to God just like Jesus did with his disciples. That is the heart of the goodbye in its essence. When you don’t know what the future holds, so ‘I entrust you to God’. He is in control of what happens now. I may not see you again but I give you to God. He will decide.
It doesn’t lessen the pain perhaps but in the uncertainty and fear of what might happen, it brings stability, it realigns the all-sufficient One into the centre of our lives. He knows. Through the tears of the goodbye, that is all we have and that is all we need.