I hate the goodbyes that come with ending a home assignment. I want good things to keep going as they are, indefinitely. And yet, I know that’s not how life works.
Denial of something’s end doesn’t delay or prevent its end. It only keeps us from grieving what was and archiving pieces of it in memory, from getting up and walking into what’s next.
If I stay stuck in this spot, unwilling to accept the reality that time is moving on, time isn’t what stops moving. There will come a day when I’m ripped from my spot, stuck in “the good that was,” and be forced to acknowledge that the world has moved on. And I’ll see that to grow, I should move on as well.
But how much life have I wasted sitting in “the good that was,” foolishly waiting for it to return?
Grieving “the good that was” is a good thing. It helps us not make our homes in “the good that was” or be incapacitated by it, but rather move forward and be faithful in the place God has us now.
If you’re a post-griever like me, it won’t hit you that things have ended until you’re halfway through your first movie on the plane over the Atlantic.
Until it’s too late to go back.
But whether you pre-grieve months before a big transition or you post-grieve like me, the only option that doesn’t work is non-grieving. Non-grieving feels safe in the moment, but give it a few years, and it will turn into post-grieving — along with psychosomatic health issues, strained relationships and bitterness. None of us want those freebies.
So, although I’ve already said most of my goodbyes to church family, friends and supporters, the reality that this year of home assignment is ending does not at all feel real. It likely won’t until I’m on the plane over the ocean.
I’ll get to the airport full of excitement, because airports mean traveling, and traveling is awesome — but it still won’t feel real.
I’ll hug my mom and dad. I’ll say, “See you in a couple of years.” But it won’t fully feel real.
I’ll get my overpriced airport coffee and snack, wait at the gate, board, and it still won’t feel real.
We’ll depart and get up to cruising altitude, the captain will dim the lights, and it still won’t feel real.
No, only halfway through watching The Batman Lego Movie or Lord of the Rings for the millionth time will it hit me: You just left home. Your family will be on a different continent than you, and it will be some time before you see everyone again. You will miss Christmases, birthdays, births, vacations and gatherings.
You’ll be missing life with your people.
Then it hits me: This year of being home is over. I’m leaving America and heading back to Ukraine. This is really happening.
That’s when my seat mate gives me a weird look. Apparently The Lego Movie doesn’t elicit emotional responses in everyone?! Whatever, lady.
So, whether you grieve the ending of “the good that was” beforehand or afterwards, feel what you feel. Let the weight of that loss sink in for a bit; let it feel real. You won’t camp out here forever, I promise. You’re just passing through.
God is here with you as you grieve. Our God sits with us in the hard things, doesn’t rush us, gently helps us up and walks with us into what’s next. Jesus is well-acquainted with grief, and He promised to be with you always.
So grieve well — in the middle of a movie or wherever. Celebrate “the good that was,” even as it’s over now, and wait with hopeful expectation for the great things God has in store.
What have you had to grieve in your journey? Missionaries, what advice would you give future missionaries as they prepare to leave their old lives behind?