I hate saying “goodbye”. It feels so final. Yesterday Penny and I visited my mother to help celebrate her birthday. We had a lovely time, but it was very painful when it came to saying “goodbye”. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Where to look, what to do.
Goodbyes are hard at the best of times, but especially when it’s someone you love deeply. What about with Jesus? Do you realise that Jesus never really said “goodbye”? What does that mean for our times of quiet with God?
This is on my mind because I heard a Renovare Institute podcast including reference to a song by Carolyn Arendes: “Never Say Goodbye”. Arends wrote this song after her mother was diagnosed with cancer. In an interview with Christian Music Today she said:
“This Easter she had been in the hospital for four months straight with no end in sight, and she was so discouraged. She’s always loved Easter services, and she was too ill to even get out of her bed, let alone go to church. She called me Easter Sunday morning, crying, and my heart sank at the sound of her choked-up voice. But it turned out to be happy tears. She had just heard a preacher on TV say, ‘Jesus said a lot of things while he was here, but remember, he never said goodbye.’ That to me was another reminder that death and sorrow and separation and loneliness do not get the last word. Love does, thanks to Jesus.”
Here are the lyrics of the song:
1. I know when You were here
You spoke a lot of words
To disturb the comfortable
And comfort the disturbed
But those who knew You best
Must have wondered why
You never said good-bye
2.You said “Lo, I’m with you always
Always know that I’m
In a world beyond all time
Where we never say good-bye”
I know when You were here
The people gathered ’round
To hear You tell of prodigals
And treasures lost and found
And some folks understood
And some folks didn’t try
Still, You never said good-bye
3.I know when You were here
Whenever You would speak
The lame would walk, the blind would see
Your talk was never cheap
And when the time had come
You said You had to die
But You never said good-bye
My best friend at University (and we’re still friends today) was Laurence. Whenever he and I parted he would say “see you soon” instead of goodbye. I thought this was a bit odd. Why not say “goodbye”? I asked about this. He said that it felt too final. Instead, he preferred to say “see you soon” in anticipation of the next time we met. In other words, he was expressing to me that he was looking forward to seeing me again.
I have adopted this phrase ever since. And I think Jesus would use it too.
- “Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:19–20 NIV11)
Jesus is out of sight, but not of mind. He is with us now, and is looking forward to enjoying an even more direct, personal and physical (if that’s the right word) connection with us in the next life. For him, this will be soon. It may not feel soon to us, but in the context of eternity it certainly is!
How does it feel to pray knowing that Jesus is looking forward to seeing us “soon”? Why not pray about this topic today, or make it a theme for the week? Let me know what insights come your way.
Resources mentioned in the podcast: “Never Say Goodbye”
Scriptures referred to, or that you might find useful: John 16.19-20.
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God bless, Malcolm
PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John