I sat on the floor of our son Mark’s bedroom. We both had tears streaming down our faces. He had gone through his closet and reduced 23 years of memories down to one bin. “Do I keep this Mom?” he asked about a tender note from a friend. “What about this?” as he held up another memory from the past. Mark and I cried about the fact that Dad and I are selling the home where Mark grew up, moving to New York City and, leaving him and our adult children in the Rocky Mountains (including our new daughter!).
About every decade in our 31 years of marriage, Jim and I have moved to a new state. Each move has included children at various stages of their lives. With our next move, we leave our family behind as well as the many friends, coworkers and ministry partners we have developed living in Colorado Springs. As I write the tears are almost uncontrollable. The move to NYC is one we embrace and we look forward to what God will do in and through us, but the grieving/letting go stage hurts.
Last night we sat in the home of our neighbors going through the third “Lesson on Assurance.” God has given us the opportunity to help our sweet neighbors. They are hungry to learn and we are eager to help. This is the most exciting personal ministry we have done in the last couple of years. I am grieving and trust that this couple will keep growing.
How do we leave well, maintain friendships that have been significant, move to a new place as well as make room in our hearts for more relationships?
I find myself needing the advice I have given others in transition:
1) Be aware that change is difficult and that emotions can be heightened during times of transition. Allow the “Fruit of the Spirit,” in particular gentleness and kindness to impact your relationships, especially those closest to you. Take time to be with the Lord and allow Him to speak to your heart through His Word. Your labor in the Lord has not been in vain, though at times it can feel that way as you experience change.1 Corinthians 15:58 encourages my heart, “Therefore, my beloved brothers (mommy missionaries) be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
2) Grief is part of leaving so allow yourself the opportunity to grieve deeply. There is a sense of loss that you don’t want to miss. It is uncomfortable. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 has been helpful to me:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
3) Say “good-bye” well to the people you have given your life to in this season: Take breaks to enjoy special moments with friends. This is very important for your children and husband too. As the apostle Paul was leaving the elders from Ephesus, thinking it would be the last time they saw him Acts 20:37-38 gives us an emotional picture of leaving. “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again.” While we often will see people again, saying good-bye well is important.
4) Consider how you might keep connected with the ones you are leaving behind. It is much harder for the ones being left, often, than the ones who are leaving. There is much to look forward to as you leave but there is a void for those you are leaving behind whose lives will stay somewhat the same. Plan a trip to back before you leave or set up a call/ Facetime.
5) Leave well. Don’t leave unresolved issues relationally. Acts 24:16 encourages us to, “Take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” Leaving well sometimes means this is necessary.
6) Trust God to meet your future needs relationally, physically, emotionally and for your ministry opportunities. Ask God to give you and your family friendships and to show you His good and perfect plan for you. In our last move, our church family prayed and asked God to give a good friend to each of our sons. It was precious to see God answer those prayers. God allowed our family to grow closer to one another as we met new people and began a different type of ministry.
The Lord will guide and direct your path, for you and your family.
Isaiah 42:16 promises:
And I will lead the blind
in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
and I do not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16
Jim and I often tell people that we hope it hurts when they make a ministry transition. If it isn’t hard to leave, you probably haven’t fully given yourself to what you were doing. But… leaving is hard! With you and praying for you as I pack up my home, memories and friendships and seek to move toward unfamiliar paths which the Lord is preparing for each of us.