Editorial: Learning to Say Goodbye
We have reached that equally celebratory and distressing time of year: commencement. It signals new beginnings for Asbury graduates, as well as gaping relational holes for their peers that will journey on next semester. After the craziness that marks the closing of the academic year, such paradoxical emotions seem only fitting, but no less perplexing: How can I be so happy for my friends that are graduating, and yet so sad that I won’t see them every day next year?
Seminary is a strange stage of life. Many of the folks we grew up with are knee-deep in careers post-education, but we are still in training. There is much to learn if we, in God’s timing, want to shift from ministerial padawans to Jedi. So, we bond over being far from home, writing papers, reading (so much), and desiring to serve the Lord with the whole of our being. The life shared here lends itself to closeness as brothers and sisters in Christ that is virtually unparalleled, making the physical parting of ways that much more difficult to face.
Some of the readership may know that Houghton College is also a place like this. Commencement day each year marks new beginnings for graduates and mixed emotions for the younger friends they’re leaving behind. As a young collegiate athlete at Houghton, I felt quite sad, increasingly each year, as yet another class including teammates and friends walked across the stage in Wesley Chapel and headed off to wherever it was that God was calling them, until finally, it was me leaving. It can hurt to make such deep friendships knowing that geographical closeness will likely only last a few years.
A deeply loved Houghton tradition of recent years has involved “The Blessing Song” by Dennis Jernigan. The multi-talented dean of the chapel sings it over the graduating class during the last chapel of the year. It’s always an emotional experience for all involved, as is clear from lines such as: “May your memories all be sweet in each parting” and “May you live your life to die for the gospel.” Seniors are reminded of why they came, and for Whom they boldly step out into a world that desperately needs to have a meaningful encounter with Jesus Christ.
What commencement and saying goodbye can teach us is that everything on this side of heaven is transient, lasting for but a season. As amazing as ATS is, we cannot continue to be equipped here for the rest of our lives. Eventually, we have to go and do what we have been preparing to do – as Paul would quip, grow from drinking milk to eating solid food. Praise God, we can rejoice in what this season is making way for – a life of service to the Lord and eternity in His presence. Even if we never see dear friends after leaving Wilmore’s bustling metropolis, we can know that “goodbye” is really “see you later.”