Love Them As They Walk Away
Laurie Beth Jones

One of the shimmering reflections off Jesus that caught my fancy today was this:
He taught there is no goodbye.

This reflection began with the story of the rich young man who wanted to please Jesus and asked what he must do. When told he must sell everything he had and give the money to the poor, the young man found the cost too high, and he turned away. In one story it says “And Jesus loved him as he walked away.” It’s easy to love someone who is coming towards you with open arms. It is not so easy when suddenly all you see is their back.

We don’t know how to say goodbye in this world. We bond with others only to later cast them aside, or be cast aside ourselves. A handful, if we are lucky, stay with us through all the ups and downs that are the hallmarks of life. But for others, those who failed somehow to meet our expectations? We seal them off in tiny space capsules. We then hit the button that casts them out into the darkness, and feel that now we are done with them. It is finished.

Yet in the vision of eternity that Jesus taught about, he seemed to be indicating that we will always meet again…with the people we once loved, with the God we believe in, with the dreams that were yearnings not realized. Our shacks will become mansions…our tears will become diamonds…our eyes will be truly opened to the ten million colors we can perceive right now but somehow lack the vocabulary to describe.

Maybe even the people who once hurt us will show up as angels, no longer disguised.

The truth is I do not understand why friends who once walked with us suddenly choose a different path…why people so bright with promise slowly rust and disappear…why employees get fired by the very people who hired them…why some marriages end abruptly or slowly fade to dust over time. I may turn my back on someone who has hurt me…but that doesn’t mean they no longer exist, or might return some day when I least expect it.

Some theological historians believe that the rich young man did return. They think he ended up supporting Jesus’ ministry, even being the one who gave the money for that huge tombstone that sealed his grave. And yet….even that seal was not final.

I once consulted with a firm that seemed to attract people back to them, even after those employees had left to take jobs elsewhere. When I asked the head of Human Resources to run the numbers it became clear that 1,503 of their current ten thousand employees had once worked for them before. That is more than the one in ten Jesus spoke about who returned to say thank you. Fifteen percent of return-ees is an astounding number.

It says to me that somehow this company, its people and its culture, know how to say goodbye. They make it a true “Fare Thee Well” when signing the “final” paperwork.

They have built a place that is welcoming, even in its goodbyes.

The darn thing about Jesus is that he noticed the man also dying on the cross beside him, and invited that man to come home with him– even with his last few breaths.

There is no goodbye in eternity.
If only we could see that…now