When you live in a military community and attend a church tied to a seminary…frequent goodbyes are to be expected.
My brain triggers defense mechanisms for my heart now. When I meet new friends I probe, “So what brings you here?” If they answer, “We just got orders to the such-and-such battle group,” or, “We’re here for seminary,” my heart instantly turns into a ticking timer. Somehow the pain associated with this revolving door doesn’t seems as dreadful if the count-down starts on day one.
Moving trucks and tears roll precisely when deep, meaningful friendships take root.
This year the farewells rocked my world. Friends’ departures for ministry and military hurt – but I could see those coming. When the economy and job transfers also moved friends I thought would be here forever…that was downright unsettling.
I measure the years and the ways God knit my heart to these people. Close to a dozen families who have prayed with us, brought us meals, taught our children, showed us how to make much of Jesus in spite of an empty bank account, shared hand-me-down clothes, and made our sides ache with laughter — are gone now. There is a gaping hole. My heart doesn’t know what to do.
My heart tells me it shouldn’t be this way. My heart says I should prevent more pain in the future by keeping new friends at arms’ length.
My heart is wrong.
We are travelers here. We are not guaranteed uninterrupted friendships. These losses make us yearn for the permanence of heaven.
It is not the economy, the military, or ministry that takes friends from us. Our Father sovereignly places them where they will best accomplish His purposes. And truly, they aren’t taken from us. We can stay in touch and look forward to our heavenly reunion (and maybe some here, too.)
God loaned these friends for a time – and now He’s blessing someone else with their lives. The very things we love about these people are the exact characteristics God will use to give their new towns and churches a clearer picture of Jesus.
The Lord rolls His provision of friendship like the tides. We experience deep relationships washing over us. Then suddenly we are forced to wade out of our comfort zones in order to find depth with new friends. The ebb and flow reveal aspects of His greatness. Each of us is made in His image, so by delving into new relationships we discover more facets of His character.
How can I shut my heart to that provision? Jesus did the opposite. He poured Himself into His disciples knowing the very hour He would be torn from their lives. He prayed that their love for each other would reflect the love shared within the trinity. I can never display Christ to the world if my love for others is guarded and shallow.
Lord, thank you for modeling love that keeps loving in spite of the pain that is coming. Help us to rely on the Spirit to show that kind of love to each other. You have blessed us beyond measure with friendships that turn our hearts toward you. You are wise and you are worthy.