On Saying Goodbye and Starting Again

Life is a series of goodbyes. We say goodbye to childhood friends and childhood places, first girlfriends and High School fun. As we get a little older, our friends move on to other jobs or churches. Our kids grow up and leave the house. Older still, and we have to permanently say goodbye. Life is a long road and it both narrows and expands as we progress.

This is the post that did not want to be written, even though I wanted to write it. As my friend DB remarked, once you say goodbye, it makes it real in a way you were pretending you didn’t have to admit. And this is a real issue. Almost everyone I know has left a ministry assignment at least once in their lives. We all say goodbye, either from leaving or being left behind. We don’t always get to say everything we want to.

Paul encouraged us to run the race well. An apt metaphor given the temporary nature of seasons and assignments and the evaluation that always follows close behind.

My good friends SW and CW have moved on to a new assignment. The last 18 months have brought many changes to the church staff I serve with and this has been especially hard. I can think of no better way to express it than a recent blog I read by Rebecca Reynolds at The Rabbit Room, The Work of Your Hands.

I’ll let her explain it in her own words:

My youngest son lived in an orphanage overseas until he was three years old. From what I understand, his first year of life was pretty rough. Missionaries who served in his facility were not allowed to touch the infants because officials didn’t want them getting used to snuggling. Once a baby knows what it’s like to be held, he will cry to be held more. Human contact was kept to a minimum to nip that in the bud.

Because our youngest son wasn’t held much in his first year, that mind/body connection was damaged. When he first came to us, it was common for him to spin around and around in circles, to jump off of high places so he could feel the crash of the floor, and to wiggle continually. Even in his sleep, he was in motion. Too many nights I would hear a thump indicating that he had found a new way to fall around the bed rails. When I took him to an occupational therapist for advice, she explained that the orphanage had left sensory processing issues. The banging, the crashing, the wiggling were my son’s attempts to compensate for touch he never received. Because he wasn’t held enough, he had lost his body during those early years. Now his subconscious was trying to figure out where he was in the world.

Then she taught me how to help him. She showed me how to do gentle joint compressions all over his body while saying, “Here is your wrist. Here is your knee. Here is your neck.” She taught me how to run a light brush over his arms and legs so that he find his own skin. As I began to work through these exercises, my son would giggle, then grow intensely calm. Sometimes huge tears of relief would well up in his eyes. He looked at me with such deep gratitude, as if I understood a need that he didn’t quite. I would watch him reconnect with himself, and that was as moving an experience as seeing a child born for the first time.

The therapist also urged us to wrestle, to jump, to find safe methods of impact that would retrain my son’s brain. I began to knock into the world with him, and while banging around, I began to understand a little more about what he had lost. What could have been given so gently to a little baby required more extreme measures in boyhood. We had to take some risks together. We had to fall down sometimes. We had to steer ourselves through restlessness, through awkwardness, through an undefined ache that didn’t always have a clear cut answer. We were always a team, though, roughing about. As we figured out what needed to happen next, we cut each other a lot of slack and loved each other fiercely.

This is the ministry my dear friends provided for me. What a beautiful illustration Rebecca has provided. We all have wounded places and bump into situations and people trying to find ourselves: Does anyone care? Does anyone love me enough to stop me or say anything? Does anyone see me for who I really am?

The gift they gave me by jumping in my wrestling was immeasurable. They helped me find my boundaries— Here is who you are. Here are the gifts I see in you. You are worth listening to. You are worth the effort.

What a beautiful gift — to really be seen.
To be known and to be affirmed. To be validated as a beautiful creation.
To be reminded of who you are and what you are.

Goodbye, my friends. Thank you!
I see you. What I see is beautiful. I’m proud of you and will miss you terribly.

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