Take Off

I spent my most recent final day in America calmly waiting for the feeling to come. It hit me, with its usual flair for inconvenient timing, just as I pushed my backpack onto the TSA belt and watched the lips of the X-ray chamber close around it. The feeling rose from somewhere inside and tightened through the roof of my mouth. A thin tear fell over the edge of each eyelid. I noticed the TSA officer staring at me.

“Please take off your sweatshirt,” he said, repeating himself for the last of who knows how many tries.

I realized then that surprisingly, I could find words for the feeling. They were simple.

I am so tired of saying good-bye.

Minutes earlier, I’d been holding a dear friend and saying, “Good-bye, I’ll see you….” and then I’d trailed off, slowly working out that I had no way to finish that sentence. I thought of my grandparents, and wondered how much more tired of saying good-bye they must be, with even more mystery weighing down their trailing sentences.

When I was younger, airports filled my lungs with fluttering wings. Their halls were the birthplaces of flight, and their personnel the midwives of adventure. But that night I was remembering so many airport trips, so many teary farewells. And I felt the unspoken word of those grey and white lined walls whisper to me not “adventure”, but a passionless “good-bye”.

I sat, 2 hours early for my flight, and prayed for my friends and family, picturing their faces one by one and letting the tears fall. I turned to the Psalms and found myself lost in Psalm 4:7 “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Who were these people, with their copious amounts of grain and wine — and yet whose gladness could not come close to the Psalmist’s? I found them in verse 6, crying out “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, oh Lord!” They were on their knees, like me, like the Psalmist himself in verse 1, begging for God to bless them.

I thought through each of my last embraces with all the friends and family I already missed so much. A line from Song of Songs pulsed into my mind. “For your love is better than wine.”

I wish I could say that the only wine and grain I longed for was the company of all my beloveds here on earth, but I am not nearly so noble as all of that. I also pined for grain — for amber waves of it, no less. I couldn’t stand to leave all the temporal realities of America which had given me so much joy over the past two months: the openness and space that exists even in cities, the freshness of the air, the widespread availability of ovens, the hipster coffee shops, the second-hand bookstores with books in English, the incredible loving community that is my church in California, the mountains and rivers of Western Montana.

I boarded the plane and began to wonder how a 14 hour flight could ever prepare me to say good-bye to all of this. But then suddenly I saw that Psalm 4 was gently offering me a choice. I could keep begging for things, from the obviously transient ones like tea with milk and honey, to the still ultimately short-lived others like the company of the people who love me. Or I could accept gladness.

But what, I asked, is this gladness? And how, I wondered, can I get it? The chorus of Psalms 42 and 43 presented itself.

“Why are you cast down O my soul,

and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,

my salvation and my God.”

The gladness is nothing more or less than salvation. And the minute salvation stops being gladness, I know that I have either drifted away from believing in it or I have forgotten what it is.

The writer of Psalm 4 was not happy. The writer of Psalms 42 and 43 was in utter despair. The answer to both was not a warm and fuzzy feeling, but the reminder of the objective fact of salvation along with an invitation to meditate on every detail of what salvation means.

Like the writer of Psalm 4, I meditated on what was done for my salvation, on why it was done, on how it has freed me to truly live my life, and on how it has also freed me to die at any moment without regret or fear.

The plane surges forward and then up and I marvel at the lovely patterns of streetlights around San Francisco’s highest hills. Two more tears slither deceptively down my cheeks and I can’t help singing under the roar of the engine a few lyrics.

“No guilt in life, no fear in death,

this is the power of Christ in me.

From life’s first cry to final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.”

 

Photo Credit: Benson Kua via Compfight cc

Anyone else tired of the good-byes?  What runs through your mind during teary take offs?

27 Comments

  1. Holly November 20, 2013

    This is very timely for me as we leave tomorrow to go back home. Thank you for sharing. <3

    1. Morielle November 20, 2013

      <3 I will pray for your travel and transition.

  2. Jessica Hoover November 20, 2013

    Morielle, I am notoriously terrible at goodbyes. I avoid them like the plague and am queen of the trailed of sentence. You write so beautifully and capture these feelings in a way that I’ve needed articulated for a long time. Thank you for that.

    1. Morielle November 20, 2013

      Ah, “the queen of the trailed off sentence”. What an unexpected combination of words: and yet, so true. I too try to avoid goodbyes, but often feel guilty about this, as I know many people in my life like the closure. I used to think that I’d get better at goodbyes (which in my mind meant that I’d someday learn to do them gracefully) but I’m starting to think that the only way to do them is to be authentic. And that sometimes means awkwardness, and trailed sentences, and the admission that it’s not going to be the same when we’re on opposite ends of the globe, and I’ll miss you like crazy, but we will see each other again.

  3. Kate November 20, 2013

    Oh bless your heart! I hear ya! Thank you for articulating what I feel each time I leave America and each time I leave Uganda. Bittersweet. Yet JOY! Two worlds apart….I get the best of both. I often wish I could combine my two worlds. God is sovereign and HE has a plan. In my bittersweet moments, I often find myself seeking strength…my own….to be strong at the goodbyes. I am reminded that this calling has nothing to do with my strength and everything to do with God’s. Oh! That he would use me! It is overwhelming and humbling! He gives us his strength! 🙂

    1. Morielle November 20, 2013

      I’m so glad you talked about looking first to your own strength for goodbyes, I definitely tend to do that too. But when I do, I never can. If I had only my own strength, I don’t think I could do goodbyes. How grateful I am that my calling has, as you say, nothing to do with my own strength, and everything with God’s! Also, if I had a penny for every time I’ve longed to combine two worlds….:)

  4. Christina November 20, 2013

    Thank you. We leave tomorrow for a visit home for the holidays. Then we will return again to Japan. Every time we say goodbye, it seems only to get more difficult. I am so tired of saying goodbye. Yet encouraged when I remember there are no goodbyes for believers, for we will meet again, even if not on this earth.

    1. Morielle November 20, 2013

      Oh, thank you so much for that reminder Christina! It’s something that sometimes, even though I never forget that it’s true, I forget to remember it in my heart. And another encouraging thought is that while my life is divided between two countries now, neither of them is really my country. We’re all headed towards the same heavenly country, to share together. I’ll be praying for you and your transitions.

  5. emily thomas November 20, 2013

    That was just gorgeous. I recall those feelings clearly. The fact that there are no goodbyes for believers is such an encouragement isn’t it?
    Thank you for writing this.

    1. Amy Young November 20, 2013

      Sometimes I’m ready for the goodbye — usually not, BUT not all the goodbyes have been hard and some more of a relief that I’d care to admit 🙂

      1. Morielle November 20, 2013

        😀 Yes, if I’m honest, I’ve had those goodbyes too.

    2. Morielle November 20, 2013

      Thanks so much for sharing encouragement through your writing! You’ve already encouraged one. 🙂 Yes, my feelings towards airports fluctuate through all the extremes. Sometimes they are places of reunion, but it seems like they are more often places of separation.

  6. Amy Young November 20, 2013

    When I first moved overseas my parents weren’t “old” and there were no nieces. And I wonder how much the fact that there wasn’t the internet helped — it somehow seemed easier to truly live the separate life. Now, with technology, I am/was so much more aware of what I was missing out on. And those nieces … I wrote about the pain of separation at http://www.messymiddle.com/2012/01/19/the-pain-of-separation/

    Thanks Morielle!

    1. Morielle November 20, 2013

      Ah, what an interesting thought about technology. I’ve always assumed that my ability to skype people should make things easier, but in some ways it does make it harder. When I see my sister’s face, I want to hug her so much it hurts. And last year, my two best friends from college celebrated thanksgiving together. They skyped me, which made me feel good (they thought of me and wanted to talk to me) but also sad (I wasn’t there to hug them and eat pie with them and just bask in their presence).

    2. Morielle November 20, 2013

      p.s. LOVE that post. Especially the connection to Genesis. And this part:"As I embraced the physical, emotional and even spiritual pain I felt as I packed my bags, hugged my people, stood in lines and was transported away from them, I saw it as a living metaphor. A metaphor for what sin does and the pain it causes. Sin creates separation. Separation from God. Separation from other people. Even separation from creation and the beauty it can behold. ” You’ve expressed a deep theological truth in a way that dives straight to the bottom of my heart by speaking through my experience. So beautiful.

  7. Elizabeth November 20, 2013

    Crying here. Hate hate hate goodbyes. I didn’t like them growing up in the military, and I don’t like them now, living overseas as an adult. It’s nice to be with people who get both how awful goodbyes are, and how repetitive they are. Thank you.

    1. Morielle November 21, 2013

      Yes. Just yes. To the feelings of hating goodbyes. To the niceness of hearing from people who get the awfulness and the repetition. So much yes.

  8. Ashley November 21, 2013

    As soon as I read the first sentence, I was instantly reminded of ‘that feeling’. You know, when you’re waiting in line at security, trying to convince yourself that it’s better to not turn around and look back at your family, with those nervous/excited butterflies in your stomach? I hate that feeling…every. single. time. Thankfully, God always provides ‘airport friends’ to chat with to keep my mind off the goodbyes…and once I’m on the plane, that feeling somehow turns into pure excitement! And there’s always relief in knowing that in 6,000 miles, I will be in the arms of my other family!

    1. Morielle November 21, 2013

      Yes, there’s something about security line separating you from your family that can fill you with such sadness as you sit and wait. Yes, I know that feeling! I also get how getting on the plane exhilerates you. It always feels so good to me when I’m seated, settled, and buckled in, watching everyone else settle around me.

  9. ann November 21, 2013

    I’ve always felt amazed at how life changes so much by getting into an airplane. My niece used to see a plane in the sky and point to it saying, that’s where Auntie is, kind of like a time machine.

    There’s definitely a point somewhere when my mind switches, it could be when i go into an airport or come out of one, but you can’t ignore it anymore, it’s not Kansas any more.

    As a kid i used to love airplanes and airports – TWA, Pan Am, all sorts around the world. Going up to see the cockpit, getting my wings. Meeting people at airports.

    Now i most think of travel is a great time for praying – placing those we leave in God’s care, asking His angels to go before us and with us AND asking Him for strength to face the challenges that will be waiting. Which helps a lot as it is harder and harder to leave those loved ones behind…

    1. Morielle November 21, 2013

      Travel as a great time for praying. What a wonderful perspective! Thanks so much for sharing.

  10. Kimberly Todd November 21, 2013

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the sneaky grief that accompanies the high mobility of our lives, our own movements and those of other people in our places. After nearly a decade, I’m learning to mourn and let mourn. Though we live in multiple worlds and love much, a loss is a loss and isn’t canceled out by what we gain when we get on that plane again. I’m recognizing I need, my family needs, at least one intentional purposeful ritual to help us to mourn well so that we don’t embrace our gains at the expense of our losses and pile up unresolved grief. Your post helped me to think through what that could look like. The Psalms you referenced are rich. Also, maybe the Songs of Ascents.

    1. Morielle November 21, 2013

      Oh, wow, I think I need at least one intentional ritual to prevent embracing gains at the expense of losses (and piling up unresolved grief). Perhaps some psalms, yes. I’ll look through those Songs of Ascents. And I think Ann’s idea of praying specifically for each person we’ve said goodbye to is also a good way to mourn their loss and focus our trust towards God.

  11. Jennifer November 22, 2013

    Goodbyes are challenging… The hardest goodbyes for me have not been saying goodbye to go back overseas, but friends dying while I have been overseas the last few years. No real closure or chance to say goodbye or talk about it, is challenging.

    1. Morielle November 23, 2013

      I can’t imagine, Jennifer. I haven’t experienced such a separation yet, but I will. And when I do, I will remember your words and sistership, as well as the encouraging thoughts shared by all these commenters. Thank you so much for sharing.

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