I reach over and take a sip of Coke. Immediately I erupt with an embarrassingly loud burp.
My stomach is that jittery.
Pure exhilaration and absolute heartbreak sit mixed in my gut.
I am on my way to the airport as a freshly turned 18-year-old, about to leave everything and everyone I know for a foreign country.
I would blush about by my belch, but I am just with my family.
Just my family. Just the family I once swore I would never live far away from. Yet here I am, right out of high school, already leaving them.
My family walks me to my gate (in the days before 9/11), and that’s where it happens- the goodbyes. My mom had teared up nearly every day of my senior year anticipating this moment. Now here it is. My dad is just as teary. I hug them until I think we’ll break.
Then I turn to my siblings. My sister is just 11 years old. I fear that she’ll grow up, and I won’t be there to see it happen. Turns out, that’s just what happens.
Fast forward years later, past the year abroad that made me fall in love with cross-cultural life and service, past the college years where I met and married a man, hitching our lives and commitments together. We’ve spent years preparing, and now we are getting ready to do it again – the goodbyes.
We are in the midst of training, just weeks before our departure for the other side of the world. What sticks straight in my memory from those weeks of training is something that is shared, not in the adult session, but in the children’s training. I have no kids yet. But I hear about what the trainers do with the children.
They take out two rubber ducks. Then they talk about them.
They say, “These ducks are moving to a new home. God is going with them to this new home. See this duck? This duck is happy. He’s excited about what’s happening. He’s been waiting and waiting for this big change. He can’t wait to see what’s ahead.
Now, see this other duck over here? He is feeling very sad. He is really going to miss his old home. He feels nervous and even sometimes scared. He doesn’t know what his new home will be like. He is sad about saying goodbye to people and places and things that he loves.”
Then the trainer looks all the kids in the eyes, all these young lives that are about to uproot and transplant overseas, and says, “You know what? You are just like these ducks. You are moving to a new home. Do you know that you are going to feel like BOTH of these ducks? Sometimes you’ll be happy and excited. Other times you’ll be sad and scared. And that’s okay. Sometimes you’ll even feel like both ducks at the same time! Do you know what that’s called when that happens? It’s called a ‘pair o’ ducks’! Or a… paradox.”
That’s when my throat catches and I say, “Yes, exactly. I am that pair o’ ducks.” I am beyond thrilled to be heading into a new life, a divine calling across the world, and yet at the same time a sad and scared me is crying “Is there any other way??”
Those words hang in the air, echoing back across the millennia.
Suddenly a sense of togetherness washes over me. Jesus in me, and me in him. We are living together that night in the olive grove, the ultimate paradox, the I-don’t-want-this-but-I-do moment where all of eternity collides.
I am drinking a drop of his cup, a taste of his paradox, the privilege and the pain. I don’t want this… but I do. I do for you, Father.
The cost is real. And all these years later, the goodbyes still hurt. And I’m still a pair o’ ducks. And that’s okay.
Where are you at in the paradox?
Come share with us on the prompt, “Goodbye.” Here’s how:
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