by Alastair Sterne
February 8, 2012
3 min read
A few months ago Julia wrote a post titled The process of letting go. She talked about the pain of saying goodbye and her disdain towards it. Having now left Orlando, I want to talk about some of the positive aspect of saying goodbye. It’s not all bad, and it actually contains some sweet moments. It is cliche, but true: saying goodbye is bitter/sweet.
We were very intentional about saying goodbye well. So much so that we had many people praying for us throughout our transition, and some holding us accountable to it. This meant not avoiding tears, or pain, but instead walking face first into emotions we would rather not feel. But out of the conversations we had with many of our friends came some of the most heart-felt and encouraging moments I’ve ever experienced.
When we attended our last small group (which we were in for four years), one of our friends suggested that everyone go around and share what they appreciated about us. But in turn, Julia and I also went around the group and shared how each person had impacted our lives. Moments like this helped us remember how very good so many people have been to us, and how so very good God has been to us in Orlando. Many of us got married around the same time, and we walked through the first few years of marriage together. Over the last year and a half our group started having babies. We went through a period of time that can’t be recreated with anyone else. It is utterly unique. The pain of saying goodbye came with the joy of solidarity.
I decided to write letters to some people. In the letters I recounted significant memories, things that were said that shaped me, and then I wrote a prayer of blessing which often recognized that we may never live in the same city but we would one day sit at the great banquet feast in heaven together. I often sat at my computer with tears streaming down my face as I wrote these letters, but I was simultaneously overwhelmed by how in Christ I have an enduring hope that the temporary separation we face is just a blink of the eye in the light of eternity. The pain of saying goodbye came with anticipation and eternal hope.
Our last evening in Orlando was spent with a handful of our closest friends, three of which I consider my best friends. Alex was one of my first friends in Orlando. He became a roommate, a groomsman, and someone who I’ve always leaned into and confided in. God gave us the opportunity to recount the past five years, the highs and lows, and the many things we have shared together. The beauty of the conversation was not solely remembering the past five years, but praying about what the next five will look like. The pain of saying goodbye came with realization of bonds that can’t be broken.
Now I’m with Julia, I still don’t like saying goodbye. I would much rather not. But it is a part of life, and if we do it well and with integrity God will show up and bless us in bitter sweet ways. I have never been so grateful for a period in my life as much as I am for the past five and a half years in Orlando, and part of the deep appreciate I feel is because we said goodbye well.