This is my oldest son, Joshua, 20 years old. He graduated a couple of years ago from High School and moved to Ottawa where he is working in construction. He is saving his money to buy a house to fix up and flip. I think he'll do it! In January 2006 when he left home, Lisa and I cried like babies. For days! It was unbearable to see one of our kids leave. It really hurt to see him pull down the driveway in his car and take off into the snow storm. It felt like my heart was tied to his bumper and got dragged through the ice and salt for months.
I've always had difficulty saying goodbye to people. As a pastor, I've had to say goodbye to many, many people. We went through a church split 10 years ago. The initial Sunday was traumatic and tragic, and we saw many of our friends turn on us and leave. Over the next several years we saw many more people drift away. For those of you going through a church split... here's what I've observed:
- The first group leaves usually over an issue, either political, theological, or moral. It is usually swift and violent.
- The second wave of people leave because their friends have left and they want to be with them. Or they are just plain offended by what has happened. This happens soon after the first wave.
- The third wave is when people leave because the church isn't the same as when they joined. They didn't sign up for this. They leave looking for something better.
Some people would just disappear. After a couple of weeks I realized they were gone. When I called them up, they embarrassingly explained. Others would come in to talk with me and said they were leaving, but wanted it to be smooth, mannerly and with my blessing. I said yes every time, of course. It's a free country. But a small piece of my heart died every time. I'm not sure how much of my heart I have left. It feels small. Which is probably why it hurts so much all the time. It has been stripped, beaten and broken to near nothing, but the pain is still the same size. Sometimes I feel it will just burst and I will lie bleeding in my church. For me, church (or any religious community for that matter) is all about loving each other for the long haul... sticking together through thick and thin. So when there's a split or division or divorce it nearly kills me. I realize that some leave necessarily, like Josh. It's a part of growing up. But, frankly, explanations and justifications don't help. Do they!? There is a saying that "If you love someone set them free, If they come back it was meant to be". Well, I've learned that you can love someone, set them free, and never see them again. Josh is coming home for Easter. But I have many, many friends I've loved and cared for that I will never see again. I love them still. It was meant to be. Blessed be The Name.