“I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” – Acts 20:26-27
“Goodbyes” are part of all of our lives. Sometimes we choose them; other times they choose us. Some “goodbyes” are small; some are big. Some are temporary; some are permanent. Saying “goodbye” leaves a place of emptiness within and is difficult because we are parting with an event or place or person who has given our life value and meaning. Saying “goodbye” well is important, because saying “goodbye” well helps us to claim the gifts God has given us through an event, place or person, and allows us to move forward into the future God has in store for us. Saying “goodbye” well involves 1) acknowledging the reality of the “goodbye,” 2) feeling the feelings of the “goodbye,” 3) withdrawing the energy from the person, place or event, and then 4) placing our energy in what lies ahead. Saying “goodbye” well opens us to the future and the possibility of growing ever deeper in hope, meaning and joy, and we will never regret it.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul says “goodbye” well. Paul acknowledges the reality of the “goodbye:” “I know that none of you… will ever see my face again.” They all feel the feelings of the “goodbye:” “There was much weeping among them all” (20:37), the chapter later says. Paul withdraws his energy from them: “I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you.” And he places his energy in what lies ahead: “I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.”
All of us have “goodbyes” looming in our lives, whether we know it or not. “Goodbyes” to aspects of our health, “goodbyes” to experiences that will soon live only in our memories, “goodbyes” to those whom we love and who may be ailing. Our lives will always have “goodbyes” happening or about to happen!
I wonder if, as we contemplate the “goodbyes” in our lives, we might remember how well Paul says “goodbye” to the elders of Ephesus on the shores of Miletus. How Paul acknowledged the reality of the goodbye, how he allowed himself to feel the feelings of the goodbye, how he withdrew his energies from those to whom he was saying “goodbye,” and how he placed his energies in his trip to Jerusalem. “Goodbyes” are rarely easy, yet Paul did it well, and in so doing made himself available to the future God had in store for him, a life that was likely filled with more hope, more meaning and more joy as God drew Paul closer to God’s self.
I wonder, can we let God take us into the future He has in store for us? Can we make healthy “goodbyes” such that we are available to enter into that future? Can we trust that God has plans for us, to draw us closer to Christ and through him to deepen our hope, our life’s meaning and our joy.