Jesus said, “I have called you friends… This is my command: Love one another.” – John 15:15,17
How are you with goodbyes?
We all handle them differently. Some of us rush through their goodbyes with a quick hug and few words. Others minimize the impact by lightening up the language, saying things like, “Hey, see you later!,” “Take care,” “Be good,” and “Adios.”
What’s your preference when it comes time to say goodbye?
Personally, I hate goodbyes. When my oldest daughter left for South Africa for six months, we sped through the hugs and pretended like she’d be home real soon. It wasn’t until weeks later, not having heard her voice, that the reality of our 9,000 mile distance sank in and I longed to go back to that moment at the airport. I’d hug her longer and tell her I loved her a hundred more times.
If you’d ask my college roommates, they’d also tell you I dread goodbyes. Once, they found me sitting on our front porch of our house in Vermont bawling my eyes out. They asked me why, when we still had several days left together before graduation. They reminded me that we had parties to attend, pictures to take, and memories to make. But I knew these would be our last, and my heart grew heavy. I missed them long before the first goodbye.
I knew deep down that we’d never be this close again. We’d been best friends for four years, which feels like a lifetime when you're in your early twenties. They were my chosen sisters, the ones I’d picked out of the crowd when we all landed on the same freshman floor. One of my “BFF’s”, Lori, had been a childhood friend. We’d grown up and gone to college together.
I'll never forget middle school, when Lori convinced me if she made the posters and I gave the speech, “we” could become Class President. She was right. We won! In high school, we pushed the limits, got caught often, spent weeks “grounded”, and laughed through every season. When she invited me to spend summers on Nantucket, I skipped onto the ferry. When I invited her to church camp, she packed her sleeping bag. We shared countless sleepovers, bike rides, car trips, break ups, and shopping sprees. There was always more laughter than tears.
In college, we partied like rock stars, pledged the same sorority, and made a few memories I’ve chosen not to tell my teenage daughters about. Life with Lori was always an epic adventure. That girl walked with confidence, dreamed like a queen, and conquered every quest before her. Her relentless focus inspired me and her encouragement always spurred me on. She never stopped believing I could do anything I put my mind to.
When Lori found me crying on the front porch graduation week, it was clear she despised goodbyes too. I tried to explain how jobs, future husbands, children, and our proximity would distance us and make it difficult to stay close. She simply laughed and told me to cheer up and put on a new outfit. The senior class sunset cruise was waiting for us at the dock.
Some twenty years later, while visiting Lori in San Diego, she admitted I’d been right. Time, travel, families, and careers had carved a chasm between our group of best friends. Some we hadn’t spoken to in years. But there, walking along the ocean’s shore, we laughed about middle school and supported one another as mothers. I promised to visit next year and rushed through our goodbye, saying “see you real soon.”
But somehow, "soon" stretched into several years, and last weekend one of our high school friends reached out to let me know Lori had died, alone in her apartment. Now Lori was gone and I hadn’t said goodbye. The word I so despised, I would now give anything to say one last time to my childhood best friend.
These past few days of sadness and mourning have brought a few things into focus that I’d like to share with you. I hope they’ll spur you on to create more opportunities in your life to say goodbye.
Before we jump into the “How To’s”, I want take a moment and look at how Jesus modeled friendship for us. When He walked this earth, He chose twelve friends to share life with. That diverse group of men accompanied Him everywhere he went. Jesus often shared His God-sized dreams and mission with them: to seek and save the lost children of God. The twelve were privileged to see Jesus calling all prodigal sons and daughters back into relationship with God. They were also eyewitnesses to incredible miracles, salvations, and His lavish love for the “least of these.” Jesus called each of the twelve His “brother.”
Within the brotherhood, Jesus chose three best friends, Peter, James, and John. They were with Him on the mountaintop when a brilliant light overwhelmed the summit and God spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5) Jesus’ inner circle of friends saw His glory and heard God’s audible voice. Can you imagine discovering your best friend is the long awaited Messiah, the sovereign King of all Kings? How mind blowing!
So I’ve been thinking… what if we were to follow Jesus’ lead and pick twelve friends we’d like to be close to for the rest of lives? Then, pick three to pull in even closer?
I know what you’re thinking – I don’t have twelve friends, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have time for them all. I understand. I get it. Life is busy and we’ve all lost touch with many dear friends we grew up with. I realize many years might have stretched between the last phone call or visit, just like Lori and me. But here’s the good news, if she’s still alive, you still have a “prodigal friend”. It doesn’t matter who walked away from who, or if you both simply let distance grow between you. There’s still time to tell her you care.
Here’s a simple friendship formula to reconnect with a dear friend.
It’s a list of steps that spell TELL.
• T – TIME – set a time to reach out to a friend you’ve lost touch with, put it on your calendar, make it a priority.
• E – EFFORT – schedule the call, coffee, walk, or a visit. Put in the effort to reconnect your hearts and minds.
• L – LOVE – let her know you’re sorry for the distance. Ask her questions about her life to catch up to current times. Actively listen without distractions or delays.
• L – LAUGH – share stories, reminisce about the good times, laugh about how silly you were, how much you’ve changed or stayed the same.
So who comes to your mind? Which friends have you lost in the busyness of life? Who would be surprised to hear from you this summer? Go ahead TELL her you still care and would like to find the time to reconnect. You’ll never regret it when it’s time to say goodbye.
3 O’Clock Circle - Two or more together sharing real life and relevant faith.
Read this week’s blog or listen to our podcast. Then discuss these 3 questions in your circle.
1. Share one friend who you’d like to reconnect with this summer. Where does she live? When was the last time you were together?
2. How does our pace of life distance us from friends we genuinely care about? What other obstacles stand in the way of having 3 or more close friends to share life with?
3. Start with one friend. How will you reach out and tell her you care? What’s your plan? Write it down and stick to it.
If you have any questions about our 3 O’Clock Circles, please let me know. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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