He knew He wasn’t staying, though His friends and family couldn’t fully grasp His leaving. Leavers become a bit of a mystery to those who stay. Leavers understand this as much as we can. As someone who has been the “Leaver”, I know how desperately we want to leave well, how much we want to understand, and how we hope we’ll be the one to unlock the longing to stay close. I’ve found myself crying out, “Lord, how do we leave well?”
In our most recent leaving, I’ve resisted saying goodbye. I’ve looked for a Leaver to learn from and hold on to in the new and foreign land of “unfamiliar” where I’ve been before. As often happens, my search led me to Jesus, with love and wisdom and understanding to leave well. Only He has unlocked the longing to stay close, though apart.
“Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)
Jesus began saying goodbye well in advance of departure day. He knew separation was coming, even if His loved ones didn’t get it. In John 13 He was fully aware of His departure, but having supper with His dear ones. By the end of the evening, His close friend Peter voiced pain and distress at the idea of Jesus’ departure. In chapter 14, Jesus turned the attention of His friends to what awaited once He was gone. He talked of heaven (v.2), of His role as the Way (v.6), of a purpose for those staying (v.12), of the challenge to do right (v.15), of the Comforter who would stay (v.16-17), and of His promised return (v.18).
Jesus lived out truth while with those He loved, knowing He would physically leave. His friends would grieve, wonder and be hurt. His enemies would rejoice, distort the truth and take advantage of His absence. Those who followed Him for their own benefit would fall away. Only when we leave does the real impact of our life surface.
Jesus knew the crowds weren’t all sincere. Despite thousands who once sought healing and bread, only a handful would be there to say goodbye. It didn’t stop Him from leaving well.
3 things I learned from Jesus the Leaver
- Keep on loving even when enemies surface. Judas was at the goodbye party, yet Jesus loved, served and taught.
- Continue to serve in the present, because it impacts the future. Jesus wanted His disciples to remember what it is to wash feet and pass the cup, so His model would endure after His garments were taken as bounty.
- We only know what difference we made once we’re gone. Jesus loved well on earth and left well when it was time.
I never expected to say goodbye so many times in my grown up years. I was ready for roots and routines. After all, I said a lot of goodbyes in my younger years. I also know, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps,” (Proverbs 16:9). Working with missionaries, I’ve seen servants and their children walk a long road punctuated by goodbyes. They understand that this world is, indeed, not our home. True followers cultivate hearts turned to heaven, the Way, our purpose, our Comforter, and a coming final reunion.
It’s not easy to be the Leaver, but it’s also not easy to be the one left behind. We only find contentment when we stay or leave at the Heavenly Father’s direction. Oh that we would live like Jesus, who showed us how to love well, leave well, and stay close.
Are you in the midst of or approaching a time of leaving?