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Leaving is a Gift

Leaving is a Gift

As the cliché goes, there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.

Perhaps a more accurate iteration would be a bit more expansive than just death however: people leave.

When people leave, there is pain. Not sharp pain of insult, physical pain, or even nagging pain. Instead, it is a grief. A throb of hurt when thinking of what was and what can never be again.

In the Gospel, I imagine the disciples must be feeling a rollercoaster of emotions. Their friend, teacher and leader Jesus is taken away and crucified. Pain, sadness, grief. Overwhelming emotions, because the person they put their faith in is gone.

Then He returns. What joy it must have been! We are told that Peter leaps out of the boat because he can’t be reunited fast enough. The pain was temporary, because Jesus was back.

But… not for long. Jesus was returning to the Father in Heaven. He was passing through again, but not to stay. What were the disciples feeling here? Jesus was leaving, but promising that the Holy Spirit would come and be even greater. This time around, they wouldn’t experience the same level of fear and overwhelming pain perhaps, but there was still a sense of loss, right?

Doing college ministry, I watch people leave a lot. They leave the university, and go off to different parts of the world, while I remain behind. It is bittersweet, indeed. I am proud and excited for them, but at the same time, call it selfishness or what have you, I distinctly feel the absence and sadness that accompanies it.

Maybe it is friends who move, or a grandparent who passes away. Maybe it is you who is having to do the leaving.

When there is absence, there is a feeling of loss.

That is not a bad thing.

The pain that comes with absence and loss causes new life to spring up. Gratitude and appreciation come first. You remember the good, and your heart exudes this gladness.

Next comes a push toward growth, because loneliness pushes us outside of ourselves. We actively rebel against loneliness, and towards community. If you have left a community, you immediately want to pursue a similar experience elsewhere. If you are left behind, you now go on to reach out to others, blessing both them and yourself with a new relationship.

While all friendships have admirable qualities, there are also negatives to every relationship. Oftentimes, we don’t act on certain attributes or behaviors (even though we should), because it is already being taken care of by another. When that person leaves, it allows us to step into roles and qualities which were discounted before. You can then both encourage people in who they are, as you realize what roles they excelled in, as well as be aware of what qualities in which you may need to pursue further discipline in.

People will always leave; whether taken from us in death, or by careers or life changes. But while we lean into that grief we feel, it brings us to a place of appreciation and joy in that relationship and we can be encouraged.

You are changed by the relationships you take part in. As they end, or are separated by distance, you are able to love those around you better because of what you have experienced. Leaving is truly a gift, even when it hurts.

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James Harris

James is probably the 3rd or 4th funniest guy you know. Funny enough to invite to a party; not witty enough to talk about later. Co-Founder and Content Editor of Everyday Exiles, Director of College Ministry at Reynolda Church, EPC, and husband to Meredith. He has a dog named Calvin, a cat named Opie, and a robot vacuum named Alfred.

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