Goodbyes are never all that easy. Even when that trite line, “It’s not goodbye; only see you later,” is applicable, the “see you later” is rarely without any emotion at all. Even if you’re leaving for a new opportunity, the end doesn’t always make the means easier. Some are certainly harder than others, though. For example, I imagine leaving a summer job in a pump and drum warehouse is easier than, say, a job as a youth pastor.
In fact, I know that to be true. The summer after my junior year of high school, I left a job I had worked during the summer — a hard job, to be sure, but one that paid well and presented me with some amusing relationships, to say the least — at (shockingly) a pump and drum warehouse. Telling the warehouse manager I was leaving was easier, relatively speaking; after school started we both knew it was only a matter of time before the 30 minute drive for two hours of work would get to be pointless. Nevertheless, saying I was leaving wasn’t without difficulty because for some reason, departing often feels like something is left unfinished, or plans are left without a clear path forward, or relationships are left without a sort of closure.
Today, telling folks I am leaving is not so easy.
The pit I feel upon telling my students I am leaving Mountain Brook Presbyterian is hard to quantify. Much harder to quantify than the pain I felt telling my boss at the pump and drum warehouse that I would no longer be working there. I feel a similar ache when I tell congregants with whom I’ve worshiped, whose relatives I’ve met, and whose concerns I’ve heard over the last almost-year that I’m leaving. When I told my pastor and boss that I’d be leaving at the end of the month, I felt that same pit develop in my gut.
I’m thankful, today, that my departure is difficult. What that means, near as I can tell, is that these people with whom I’ve worked and worshiped over the past little bit have impacted me a whole lot. They’ve loved Kaleigh and I well, they’ve cooked us meals, and they’ve laughed with us. My students and fellow congregants have made my time here so rich and fulfilling, and they’ve taught me so much.
Today, the goodbyes sting a little bit, irrespective of whether they’re “see-you-laters” or not. But that’s a good thing, I think, because if it didn’t hurt at all, it probably means my time here didn’t mean enough. That sting is indicative of a deeper thankfulness for the bond of common love and grace in Christ that has made these relationships so fulfilling. I’m approaching this departure with a weighty joy, because I’m so excited about the doors the Lord has opened for Kaleigh and I, for the opportunities which are cresting on the horizon. All that said, today I feel the weight of saying goodbye, or see you later, alongside that joy, and I’m grateful for it.