When the uproar had ended (in Ephesus), Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia.
- Acts 20:1
Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.
- 2 Corinthians 2:12-13
Have you ever thought about the Apostle Paul and his missionary journeys? He said ‘goodbye’ a lot. He was moving from town to town. Sometimes, Paul didn’t fair too well in the new town, but he always seemed to move on. He wrote a lot of letters, which gives us a glimpse into what Paul felt was important for the different churches that he left behind, or in the case of Romans, about to enter. In that manner, he never let go, but he moved on.
What made me think of this was our recent trip to the two “Ts”, Tennessee and Texas. Sometimes you take a trip and you have no problem saying goodbye. You already know that you’ll do something with those people again. Other times, you are not sure. But then, there was the family reunion in Texas, gathering for a wedding. For the Tennessee part that provided the bread in the “T” sandwich, we played with grandchildren.
My wife’s brother got married for the first time. He was 68 years old. No one thought he would ever get married. He had commitment issues, or so everyone thought. He loved spending his money on travel and he found a school teacher who was about to retire and loved to travel also. Thus we went to Texas.
But let’s back up about eight months. Our son in Mississippi (now in Tennessee) had a week of Spring Break. He had just gotten his tax refund. He invited us to visit with the intent of going on to Texas so my mother-in-law could meet their younger two children whom she’d never seen. My mother-in-law was excited. She had been anticipating our visit for a few weeks. As the week wore on, she became very tired. We simply sat and talked, but she still became fatigued. By the time we returned to Mississippi, we were told to turn around. The hospice nurse didn’t think she’d last more than a couple of days. My son had to go back to work, so we went back on our own. My mother-in-law hung on for nearly a week. Then we went back to Mississippi to pick up our son and his family for the memorial service in Texas. My son had been asked to play a classical piece of music for the memorial service by his grandmother. Then my wife’s brothers and sisters asked our daughter-in-law to sing, with our grandson singing harmony. My wife had four brothers and four sisters. One brother passed away a few years ago, and this was the first time in a long time that everyone was there, except for a few grandchildren. The morning after the memorial service, we all gathered to say goodbye, but everyone new that the eldest of the clan would get married, just no date set yet. The goodbyes were now different than in the past, but they didn’t seem final.
Of my wife’s brothers and sisters, they all live in East Texas with the exception of one in Minnesota and my wife in Pennsylvania. At my mother-in-law’s memorial service, the out of state siblings talked about how the wedding might be the last time. We both have children and grandchildren that live in other states. The rest are all in Texas or Oklahoma. Both families decided that we’d rather visit our grandchildren.
So, when we left last week after the wedding, we said goodbye with a totally different attitude. My wife and I discussed it on the way home. If we get another source of income, we want to move closer to our grandchildren. But if we stay in Pennsylvania, we doubt if any of her brothers and sisters would come to my wife’s memorial service, if she passed away. Only a couple know where SW Pennsylvania is located. We’d go to their funeral, if we could, but that still leaves at least one that we would never see again. Sure, the Texas bunch will see each other one-on-one and maybe as a group, but the trip in March for a ten-day vacation that turned into a funeral hit the pocketbook really hard. We had to take the wedding trip on faith that God would provide.
The comment from the Apostle Paul about not finding Titus in Troas is thought provoking. Paul did not have peace of mind. As for our son in Tennessee, he plans to come to Pennsylvania for his Spring Break next spring. Our older son in Nebraska plans to do the same. Our goodbyes to the ones in Tennessee was only a matter of trying to leave before the grandchildren’s tears made us cry also. Our lack of peace of mind now is that we have a comfortable house for two people and eleven will spend a week here in March. We have four months to clean house, rearrange furniture and inventory who will bring air mattresses, or should we invest?
There is a lot of lacking peace of mind. We aren’t that young anymore. We are also sentimental. We’ll have to throw a lot of things away (memories), just to have room for everyone.
But back to the Apostle Paul, he didn’t feel complete unless Titus was with him. Yet, each time he moved, he preached the word in a new town. If Paul had stayed at Ephesus, Paul would have not written all of those letters for us to read and study. If Paul had not moved, he’d have started one or two churches in a couple of towns, not churches all over the Roman Empire. And still, each time he left, he left a little of himself at the old place. He left people that he loved and to whom he’d write letters.
One of the brothers-in-law asked why we didn’t stay an extra day or two after the wedding. I said, “Let’s see which way the scale balances. You have a choice of time with a bunch of old coots or time with grandchildren.” He burst out laughing, winked, and said, ”Have a nice trip.”
We don’t write letters as Paul did. We use the phone. We hear the voice which is comforting, but nothing is ever captured for other generations. My wife and I (along with one other sister) were the Apostle Pauls of the family. But only in one aspect. We both moved a lot and missed a lot of family events.
We have a loss of peace of mind not knowing when or if we’ll see family members again, but it is necessary for us to bloom where we’ve been planted. We may have less flowers in our garden than does the Apostle Paul, but God isn’t concerned with numbers as much as he is concerned about quality. As for quality, God measures our willingness to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I (Jesus) have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a)
And what is God’s promise for those that carry out the Great Commission? Matthew 28:20 ends with Jesus’ promise. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”