I love watching people at airports. So many sweet reunions! The bright smile as someone sees their loved one for the first time in months or years. The toddler who runs for a grandparent’s arms. The husband who embraces his wife after a business trip. The soldier who holds their spouse after a deployment has ended.
Once upon a time, the reunions were first to catch my eye. Gradually, over the years, my attention has shifted, and now I see the goodbyes first. The tears. The embrace that someone tries to hold onto just a little longer. The straining to catch one last glimpse of their loved one. I see the goodbyes.
Maybe it’s because I can relate to them so much.
I don’t cry at goodbyes.
I grew up as a missionary kid, and now I’m on the field with my husband and two kids. Goodbye is a standard part of life.
Friends. Family. Spouse. One day, our kids.
We live in Ukraine, in the same city as my parents and one brother. I have a sister in another Ukrainian city, a brother and his family in Finland, and a brother and his family in the States. All my husband’s family is Stateside. That’s not to mention grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, most of whom live in America.
Dear friends are spread out all over the world.
We say goodbye a lot. Often it’s a scary “I’m not exactly sure when I’ll see you again” kind of goodbye. Often it’s for at least two years at a time.
I don’t usually cry.
Missionaries don’t belong on a pedestal.
Josh and I talk about how people sometimes have a pedestal opinion of missionaries, thinking of them as somehow holier, somehow stronger than others. I used to think that way.
And then I became a missionary. And I’ll be the first to tell you that we’re just like everyone else.
We’re on Stateside furlough right now, and I’ve met lots of people who have commented on how hard missionary life must be, how we must be so strong or brave. I want to laugh – truthfully! Because I’m thinking, “I’m SO not as brave as you think I am.”
And this “not crying at goodbyes” is a perfect example. I don’t cry, not because I don’t feel pain, or remorse, or doubt.
We go back home to Ukraine in a few weeks. We are so excited to reunite with our Ukrainian family and friends, but I’m already dreading the goodbyes.
I HATE that my kids won’t see their cousins again for a couple years. I think about how old they’re all going to be next time. How much will they change?
What family losses will happen in our absence? Will I have to send love and moral support from over the sea…again? Unable to physically hold loved ones who are grieving.
Will anyone get married before the next visit? Will we miss any births? High school graduations?
I don’t cry, but all these thoughts torment my mind for weeks before our departure. Some may think I’m brave, or worse – just callous and uncaring. But I assure you – I feel every twinge of sorrow.
I’m just not as brave as you might think.
And it’s not just the goodbyes that get me.
I’m afraid of bugs. I worry about getting lice or bed bugs from constant travel or the work we do. I have a never subsiding, underlying fear of dealing with health problems on the mission field. Sometimes I worry about flying – what if we go down?
I’m afraid of living on a missionary income, rather than a “dependable” U.S. salary. What if people forget to give? What if they decide they can’t anymore? What if we don’t have enough?
I used to worry about our kids getting stuck in a battle zone. We’re still at war with Russia, you know.
And I doubt a lot when it comes to our kids. Am I asking them to sacrifice too much? Are they lonely? Will they grow up regretting that they didn’t have a “normal” childhood?
As you can see, I’m not that brave.
So, then I ask myself: what compels us to act when we’re not brave?
For me, it’s a hope in eternity. The firm belief that anything we experience in this life will pale compared to eternity with our glorious God.
“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV
My husband keeps reminding me that all our earthly struggles are just momentary affliction. They’ll be gone in the blink of an eye.
But by comparison, we are heading for eternal glory – to behold the glory of God. All else will be forgotten as we stand in the presence of Greatness. I’m hanging on for that day!
And that’s my prayer for you today, as well. Whatever you fear, whatever sorrow or despair you may face, I pray that you find strength in the hope of eternity.