Goodbyes and Loving Well

I grew up saying goodbye.

I’ve said goodbye more times than I can remember. I rarely ever got to grow up with a friend always next to me because, as a missionary kid, I was either leaving or being left. Work-teams, village trips, state-wide mission retreats… I learned to get deep quickly because I didn’t have long to love them well. I loved the adventure of growing up in my back-yard mission field, but even now, friendships that don’t disappear freak me out.

I wasn’t the only kid and young adult that struggled with the way missions will train friendships to do weird things. While hanging out with a young girl several years ago out in an Alaskan village, she looked at me and sweetly informed me that she’d like to like me but she knows I’ll leave and never come back. No remorse, no bitterness, no hatred; just a very candid insight into missionary friendships.

I never realized the oddity of living that way until people openly started pitying me for not having a “best friend”. Apparently, best friends are something I – especially as a woman – desperately need. Sweet people at the college I attend ask questions like, “Who do you hang with a lot?”

The only answer I can give them seems to be, “The people I’m in front of at the moment?” I’m not trying to be sarcastic, ambiguous or rude… it’s just life. I love the people I regularly fellowship with whom my heart needs and cherishes, but I’m completely “okay” with saying goodbye and connecting with them if and when I get the chance to do so later on.

Saying goodbye and truly meaning it doesn’t seem to happen as often today because of technology. I said good bye to one of my closest friends back in May, and even though we teared up a little bit, we somehow manage to connect at least every other day. Goodbye doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

That said, because of the way my heart formed friendships growing up, I learned to love and pour into the person or people I’m in front of for the moment. They may not be my best friend, or even someone my heart needs… but they’re all I’m pouring into because they’re who God gave me for now. I receive just as much as I give, and God takes care of the rest.

Someone once asked me how I felt about always leaving and seemingly never settling down. Before I was able to babble on unnecessarily, a fellow missionary kid piped up, “She loves who she meets and prays for connections to those her heart needs.”

That is the definition of loving well.


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