Goodbyes can be hard, and when you are saying goodbye to someone you reallllllly love they can be extremely hard. Tomorrow, my in-laws leave to head back to Ohio, and they are people I really love. I tried to convince them to stay, but he said he had a job to do - like he's on a "mission from God" or something. What makes it so hard is that is all true. My father-in-law is a Senior Adult Pastor at his church, on staff at a large church. So when he says duty calls, he really does have a duty and a calling. But that doesn't make the goodbye any easier!
The New Testament is full of stories of people who learn to love Jesus and follow Him wherever He sends them. Do that long enough and you're bound to develop some deep, vital relationships with other people who are doing the same. It feels great to have people like that in your corner, people you can count on and reach out to and pray with and laugh with and experience God with. But eventually, one of you runs the risk of being called to move on somewhere else.
Acts 20-21 tells us that this happened to Apostle Paul. It actually happened to him a lot, and that meant there were a lot of people who missed him every time he left on another missionary journey. In this case, he felt "compelled by the Spirit" to go to Jerusalem, and he knew life was about to get hard. Before he set out, he sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church (read his letter to the Ephesian church to get a sense of why he wanted to see them), and that's where we get to read about their goodbye:
"When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship."(Acts 21:36-38)
Who are the people in your life that you are this close with?!? If they (or you) had to pack up and move on tomorrow, who are the people you'd miss most? One more question: Would anyone miss you?
This kind of fellowship doesn't happen accidentally. You have to work at it. Some days, that takes a lot of effort. It takes you submitting to Jesus, and them doing the same thing. It takes patience, it takes forgiveness, it takes Grace towards others. Simply put, it takes Jesus. This doesn't happen by walking into a church every once-in-a-while. You have to be intentional about it, willing to go the extra mile with Him. If Jesus left Heaven to come to Earth for you, you can go a little out of your way for someone else.
As you pray this week, pray for the other people you see around you who are part of the Church with you. Do that, and you'll see people who are weary - they've gone a long time waiting for God to put an end to a struggle they're in. Do this and you'll see who want so bad to belong to a group like you're already in. Do this and you'll see that there are people who have traveled farther than you on this faith journey, and there are people who are just starting.