Recently my pastor talked about our lack of control and how God is still good. His talk pushed me to think more about a topic that has touched my life deeply for a few years now. And yes, this is me admitting sometimes I can’t focus on the sermon because my own thoughts drown out the microphone. But, lately especially, I’ve been thinking a lot about gospel goodbyes. How often they happen and how I don’t initially realize that on purpose.
When I graduated college last year I knew there were many people I had grown to love who I’d never again see this side of heaven. We were spreading out across the country. Some were going to more school, others to jobs, a few to both. But none of us would be together. Selfishly, I took consolation in that. At least I was going to be alone…alone.
Saying goodbye to them hurt. I miss them still. But in recent weeks I’ve seen a better purpose in our split community.
We did life. We did it well. Deep discussions, laughs, long meals with good wine and better food; all of it. The joys and the challenges of doing life together. Then we got our diplomas, emptied our apartments, and moved on.
It was for our best.
Not to lessen how much they’re missed, but the gospel community spreads. It branches and blooms and goes to new places. Or in my case, back to an old one. When you’re called, you go. Because as much as life with those people is amazing they’re not the point.
And they know.
Because they want more of Jesus too.
Sometimes there’s more of Jesus in a new setting around different people. It won’t be easy to leave an established community and build a new one in a new place. But it’s not just pastors or missionaries called to new locations for the mission. So what do we want: that community which discusses Christ well, loves us, encourages us, or the Lord who sanctifies? Because sometimes we do have to choose.
It’s easy to say the right answer. Sunday school and years of Wednesday night programs taught me that. But can we live in an open handed way with those communities? Knowing they come and go for God’s glory in this place?
Tearing away from what we know isn’t easy. I don’t believe it’s meant to be. Loving others deeply matures us and being known is such a comfort. We need community. Scripture is clear we’re to worship together and help others grow.
What I struggle seeing, though, is that sometimes the best growth—of myself and those around me—happens only when I leave the established. Not recklessly, not without prayer and discernment. Leaving the known to chase not comforts of this world or my own ideals but Christ because he calls me.
After all, gospel goodbyes only last for this world. And words cannot express how beautiful it will be to join all those who have said goodbye for the sake of the gospel. Together, worshipping our Lord, forever.