“Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Ephesians 4:7 (CSB)
Do you ever find yourself defining life by “before” and “after” the deep hurt?
The horrific season. The conversation that stunned you. The shocking day of discovery. The relationship you hoped would go the distance, but it didn’t. The day your friend walked away. The hurtful conversation. The remark that seems to be branded on your soul. The day everything changed.
That marked moment in time. Life before. Life now. Is it even possible to move on from something like this?
I deeply understand this kind of defining devastation in such a personal way. I also know how the Christmas season can magnify all of that pain.
People who are no longer a part of our lives are missing from holiday traditions. Ornaments and photographs that should bring joy stir up feelings of grief instead. Memories that were once sweet now serve only to widen the chasm between what was and what is.
So what are we supposed to do with all of these mementos and memories? The ones where there was some good there at one time, there were some beautiful things, and there are some good memories even if the good turned bad and an ending was absolutely necessary … Do we go through our homes and throw everything out? Is there a way for us to walk away holding on to our integrity? Is there a way to let someone walk away from us without hating them? Is there any way for a bad goodbye to be a “good” bye still?
It’s interesting that the original phrase in the late 1500s was “God be with ye.” The contraction of that phrase was “Godbwye” which eventually became “goodbye.”
I’ve recently sat with the thought of goodbyes being more of a sending off with God rather than a slammed door, a contact deleted and a puddle of angst. Is it possible for a goodbye to be more than a good riddance with a huff of disgust? I wonder. When Jesus watched the rich young ruler walk away, what was the look in His eyes? (Matthew 19:22) I wonder. When Peter denied Jesus and abandoned Him just before Jesus went to the cross, what was the goodbye like? A goodbye Jesus surely whispered through a busted-up body and a broken heart? (Mark 14:71-72) I wonder what it was like when Judas, with a heart full of betrayal, kissed Jesus’ cheek, sold Him out and then ended his own life. (Matthew 26:47-49) How did Jesus say goodbye? I’ll never really know on this side of eternity.
But I have a thought. I think Jesus said goodbye the same way He lived all the days before the hurt, betrayal, rejection and abandonment. While the relationships certainly changed, He didn’t let the goodbye change Him. He let people walk away without letting go of who He was. Even when people turned on Jesus, He didn’t let a goodbye turn Him into someone He was never meant to be.
And while I’ll be the first one to admit I’m nowhere close to the purity and perfection of Jesus, I also don’t want goodbyes in my life to make it look like I’ve never spent any time with Jesus at all.
I haven’t been great about this in the past. But I’d like to get better.
Friend, can I whisper something I’m learning?
Staying here, blaming that person and forever defining your life by what they did will only increase the pain. Worse, it will keep projecting out onto others. The more our pain consumes us, the more it will control us. And sadly, it’s those who least deserve to be hurt whom our unresolved pain will hurt the most.
We can’t edit reality to try to force healing. We can’t fake our way into being OK with what happened. But we can decide that the ones who hurt us don’t get to decide what we do with our memories. Our lives can be a graceful combination of beautiful and painful. We don’t have to put either definitive label on it — it can be both-and.
Maybe that’s part of what’s hard about moving on: the letting go. But what if it’s possible to let go of what we must but still carry with us what is beautiful and meaningful and true to us? And maybe this less-severe version of moving on is what will ease us to a place of forgiveness, allowing God’s grace for us to flow freely through us like today's key verse talks about. (Ephesians 4:7)
There’s been enough trauma. So because I don’t want anything else ripped or stripped away, I need to decide what stays and what goes.
This is what I need. This is what I want. I’d like a little more “God be with you” in my goodbyes.
Some of the memories of what happened will probably always be painful and not good at all. But the thought of “God be with you” has really stuck to something good in my heart. And it’s sneaking into my thoughts and my processing and even my conversations as Christmas is approaching.
And then the other night I literally just closed my eyes and pictured Jesus’ hands. I mentally started placing all the memories, one by one, into His strong, carpentry-calloused, nail-pierced, grace-gripped hands. I asked the Lord to help me whisper “God be with you” over each memory.
It didn’t settle everything yet. But it was a start, and I believe that Jesus is working in me and healing my heart.
I want this for you, too, however this translates within the context of your pain, those pictures, those memories, those times of togetherness.
This isn’t easy, sweet friend. But let's determine today that we don't want to let pain write our future.
God, You understand so very personally and deeply the heartache of watching someone You love walk away. As I look back at what was and look ahead at what will be, I know You are a refuge and safe place to process my feelings. Thank You for being so close to me during this time. I am looking to You and believing that today I can take some steps forward and whisper “God be with you” to those who have left wounds in my heart. This isn’t me saying I’m OK with what they did — I know You will eventually hold them accountable for their sin. But it is me saying I want to fully live again. You can bring eventual good in all things, and today I trust that You absolutely will. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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You can be equipped to better process a relationship that is no longer sustainable by studying three types of goodbyes found in God’s Word — join our Good Boundaries and Goodbyes Online Bible Study! During this six-week study, you’ll be encouraged alongside Lysa TerKeurst and a community of other women who also want to make progress in their relationships. The study starts on January 23, so order your copy of Good Boundaries and Goodbyes and sign up for the study today! Sign up here.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (NIV)
How do these words encourage you, knowing God is close to you as you process pain in your heart? Share with us in the comments!
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