Good-bye. These two words that we utter together daily as we go about our lives slip glibly off our tongues. We say it as we leave our houses each morning to go to work or school. We say it again to coworkers before heading home. We say it casually when we take our leave from places. It is a common place expression. We never think about it because it has become an automatic phrase on our lips.
This simple little expression seems harmless enough, but it can be the most painful words you ever utter. Some of the darkest days we experience on this journey through life are the ones in which we say good-bye and it is permanent and final.
Good-bye changes us forever. We lose a piece of ourselves that we never get back. Loved ones pass away, leaving us with only the memories of the all the special things about them that are tucked away in our hearts. Friends move away, and you never quite recover from the hurt caused by their departure.
We comfort ourselves and each other by saying things like, “they are in a better place”, or, “at least there isn’t any more pain for them”. Whether the permanence of a move, or the finality of death, you never quite recover from the ache caused by the loss of family and cherished friends.
I wonder if we even realize what it is we are actually saying. It is more than just an expression used to say that we are parting. If you were to look up good-bye in Webster’s dictionary you may be surprised. The origin of this expression is God be with you.
As this was sinking into my brain I began to realize just how awesome this is! Despite the emotional pain we experience as part of the human condition, we are actually expressing the wish of the ultimate joy of being in the presence of God for the person that is moving on. Is there anything more wonderful than going home?
Good-bye is really us committing our loved ones and friends into the hands of our loving Father in heaven who loves us infinitely more than we can ever love each other. So maybe good-bye isn’t permanent after all. Instead it is the embodiment of hope expressed in words. It is just “so long untill we meet again in our Father’s house.”
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going. (John 14:1-4, NSRV)