My last semester on staff at the Wesley Foundation is coming to a close which means the last individual meetings with the girls I’ve discipled this year are here. Saying goodbye has never been my favorite part of the discipleship experience over the past four years, but I have learned that goodbye is never the final word for us.
Relationships are made up of four parts: proximity, frequency, duration, and intensity.* In transitional periods, these parts can adapt to maintain a thread of relationship through endings and beginnings. My proximity to my girls will decrease when I move away from Wesley and they begin their own adventures. I will be in a new city, they’ll stay in Athens or move to other cities. Our frequency is up for negotiation depending on what we want out of the relationship moving forward. Phone calls, FaceTimes, texts, and handwritten letters have become more natural with shelter-in-place anyway. Duration will likely decrease because new responsibilities are required in new places. Before, I could spend an hour each week with each girl because that was my role to play. Now my role has shifted and I won’t have twelve hours reserved for them. This is not a reflection of a lacking desire to be with them but of my obedience to what is being asked of me at this point in my life. Intensity, or meeting each others’ needs, can be maintained and even deepened within the transition. I can still offer a listening ear from wherever I am. They can still ask for advice. We can still sit down with cups of tea and catch up on each others’ lives (socially distant, of course).
But what’s the point?
I used to let go of relationships in periods of transition, burying them in my past as I moved forward to new ones. But as I read the Word, I see the gift of relationships God has given us to know Him and let others know Him.
The world will know Me by your love for one another (John 13:35).
I pray that you, together will all the saints, will know the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18).
You are no longer strangers, but members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19).
So what does that mean?
When Jesus gave us eternal life, He gave us an incredible relationship with Himself. He also gave us relationship with one another. If I never see one of my girls before I die, I can believe I will live in eternity seeing her transformed into the likeness of Jesus (1 John 3:2). Our relationships aren’t just a part of this temporal life, we are all made for eternity with Jesus.
So while it’s good to grieve when we feel loss and to readjust relational expectations when we start new chapters of our lives, our love is not lost forever. The sacrificial blood of Jesus that brought us into holy family still flows through our veins.
As one of my friends said on her way to her new adventure, “See ya in the Kingdom.”
*The Like Switch by Jack Schafer, Ph.D., with Marvin Karlins, Ph.D.