I do not like long,… drawn-out,… sentimental… goodbyes. Instead I try to make do with a mumbled “See you later”, a quick hug, and a perfectly-timed departure, all the while keeping a tight leash on any wayward tears. No tears were shed when I dropped each of my children off for their first day of kindergarten. I saw no need for them. Just a simple,
“See you later sweetie!”,
We knew I would be back that afternoon, and somebody had better have my child to give back to me or heads were going to roll, and I was going to have to get all “Jamaica, mi crazy” on some otherwise very nice people.
Then two of my children went away from home for college, and the other joined the army, and that was a whole different story. Each time I had to get on a plane, or get in a car, and head home alone; first from Nashville, then from a Military Entrance Processing Station in Sacramento, and finally from a university in southern California. But I was a strong, independent woman, and I was not going to cry… and I didn’t…at least for a few days.
With my first child, I did not shed a single tear until the first time she called home and my usually strong, independent firstborn sounded so sad and lonely; then I was just a mess of tears. But she quickly got past it, found her niche, and even made the dean’s list that first year.
My son has a great sense of humor, and his letters home from boot camp kept me laughing; until the letter to his sister, in which he joked about spending a cold, wet night in a foxhole in Kentucky, and a tank accidentally rolled right over their position. That was not funny, and I was convinced the army was actually trying to kill my only male child. He did survive boot camp however, excelled in combat medic school, and cannot wait to be deployed overseas… but that is a whole other story.
With all that experience, leaving the youngest should have been easiest, until she called weeping uncontrollably, insisting she wanted to come home. Experience, schmex-perience! I was a hot mess, which is on a whole different level of messes, involving no sleep, endless streams of hot tears, face on the floor in prayer, and periodically wailing like a banshee. It was not pretty.
Once again it was time to assemble the ‘village people’; those in our inner circle who would pray, lend a helping hand, speak truth, and most importantly, shine the light of hope in the darkness of the ‘crazy’, till the storm passed; and pass it did. Of course, now the child is fine and beginning to thrive where she has been transplanted, but now I am just sick of goodbyes, and cannot wait for the day when we can finally say “Goodbye!” to goodbyes.
Mary must have been a hot mess too; saying a final goodbye to her firstborn Son; condemned by ‘church people’, (and that too, is a whooooole other story), crucified and dying on a Roman cross like a common criminal. She knew what Jesus had promised; that He would be alive again in three days, but could she be absolutely sure? Miracles and profundity aside, suppose He was just crazy? Extraordinarily articulate, gifted and compassionate, yes, but powerful enough to come back to life? As far as her mother’s heart knew, this was truly goodbye…until three days later…the word started spreading…He was alive…and eating roasted fish…on a beach…a favorite Jamaican pastime! Coincidence? I think not!
Fast-forward another forty days, and more than five hundred eyewitnesses later (I Corinthians 15:3-8), and you see a group of eleven men saying yet another goodbye; staring up into the sky as Jesus ascends into the heavens. Suddenly they are joined by two angels who ask:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11
Jesus had conquered death; the final enemy and great equalizer. He had proven His absolute power over nature, time and space. Shouldn’t He be setting up His headquarters, promoting His friends to positions of power and influence, hiring a publicist and going on tour…after He exacted revenge on the people who put Him on the cross? Instead, He left them with the promise that He would come back again, and they were so convinced of this that the early believers would say goodbye to each other with a single word, “Maranatha!”; Our Lord comes!
The Apostle Paul would later write:
“For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:16-18
So here’s the thing, scholars way smarter than I am, with alphabets of letters after their name, have determined that 98% of the prophecies in the Bible came to pass exactly as prophesied, within the Biblical narrative, and in world history. Of course we can choose to live as if there will be no endgame as prophesied, but if Jesus does return as promised, you could be up the proverbial creek, without a proverbial paddle.
But consider, even if it is all a fantasy, and He does not return as promised, those who choose to believe will still leave behind a legacy of a life well lived. Seriously though, the mathematical possibility of that final 2% also coming to pass exactly as prophesied, is one reason I choose to go about the daily business of life with passion, integrity, and hope, ever so often looking longingly toward the eastern skies…and just living the thing.