The End of All Goodbyes

Heartbreak EmojiMark 12:24-27:
Jesus said to [the Sadducees, who deny the resurrection], “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

The broken-heart emoji is featuring quite prominently in Mayer-family text messaging of late.

Yesterday, we reluctantly said farewell to a new loved one. Miku, a Japanese “Home Stay” student who had been living with us for the past two weeks, had reached that dreaded moment when she had to return to her real life back in Nagoya. The Home Stay program had been set up through Veritas, a ministry within The Crossing, to give college-age students in Japan an opportunity to see what life is like in the heartland of the United States and to spend time around American Christians.

Living Room Nerf Gun WarHaving been through this once before – “Hello, Futaba!” – we all knew what to expect. But it turns out that head knowledge doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier.

When the time came, there were plenty of tears. They belonged to Miku, my wife Shelly and our nine-year-old son. I managed to keep it together, but this was only possible because of my bedrock belief that no act of love will be wasted in the eternity described by Jesus throughout the gospel accounts.

As a younger man, of course, theological pride drove me to seek “all the answers” as to why it made any sense to give your heart to someone you may never see again in this life. Mercifully, Christ has dragged me to a point where I can now trust Him to handle all the messier details of my heart, particularly those that cause me to wince in pain.

And of course, our family may well get to see Miku once again this side of eternity – we certainly hope for that – but as with everything else about living a short life in a fallen Creation, there are absolutely no guarantees.

Which is one precise point at which the promises of Christ become so very, very precious.

I’d probably read Mark 12:24-27 at least a hundred times before I finally had The Light Bulb Moment wherein I finally understood that God was speaking in the present tense about His people when He said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” He wasn’t saying “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Even though this passage is arguably the literary equivalent of a bright red firetruck driving through my living room, I suppose I had been so fixated on paying attention to how Jesus was smacking down the religious leaders of His day that my hardened heart had completely missed the implications of the present tense: Jesus certainly seems to think that those who have died are “still around,” yet in communion with the living God, their lives being eternally present in His Kingdom. So…will I choose to believe this or not?

On the way home from our tearful farewell yesterday, my son began to sob and to ask several detail-oriented questions involving the acquisition of plane tickets to Japan, getting future Miku visits to Missouri on our calendars and so forth. While I am typically struck dumb by any display of good, God-honoring grief, it was evident that my son needed something from me in that moment, anything upon which he could hang the hopes and turmoil of his heart. Without forethought, I blurted out, “Isn’t God amazing, how He enlarges our hearts to hold even more special people in them. What you’re feeling right now is very good, it’s a gift, and it honors both God and Miku.”

"We'll meet again."

“We’ll meet again.”

While I can offer my son zero in the way of reassurance that he and Miku will have another wrestling match or Nerf gun war in our living room, Christ graciously provided the words for me to use in the moment, to affirm for our son that his (obvious) love for Miku was not and never will be wasted.

A few years ago, someone hit me with this mildly-amusing Pop Quiz for us would-be Bible know-it-alls: “Did Moses ever make it to The Promised Land?” The knee-jerk response, of course, is to answer, “No, God would not allow Moses to enter The Promised Land as a consequence for striking the water-giving rock in Numbers 20:1-13.”

The correct answer, however, is “Yes,” and our basis for saying so can be found in Matthew 17 and Luke 9.

Just as the Holy Trinity saw fit to throw an impromptu Bible Heroes Party on the Mount of Transfiguration – mostly for the benefit of Peter, James and John – we can all be confident that similar joy-filled reunions await all who put their trust in Christ. As curious humans, we fret far too much about the details, put way too much stock in our ability to engineer our own heart-expansion projects and we often fret so much so that we suck the life-affirming joy right out of the heartache that comes from watching your newest loved one drive off in a cloud of ambiguity.

Safe travels, Miku. Thank you for allowing God to use you to expand our hearts…even if it does hurt right now.

Luke 9:28-36 (ESV)
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”-not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Parallel Account: Matthew 17:1-13

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